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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 




from our readers 

SIL.VAL:TheChipsOf Our Lives 19 

article by melquiades 

On Finding the Word 'Night' in a Legal Document 32 

poem bi; n.m. hoffmar} 


interview with french saboteurs 

f.y.i.* 38 


Don't PIS on Me! 40 

article on west german resistance 


poem b[; adam cornford 


fiction b]; paxa lourde 


information from pandora pennyroi^al 


article by henri simon 


b\; sb/r/ey garzotto 


review b^; Helen highwater 

All of the articles reflect the views and fantasies of the author 
and not necessarily those of other contributors or editors. 

iCover Graphic by: Paul Mavridesi 

CREDITS: Lucius Cabins, Linda Thomas, Helen Highwater, Arachne, Maxine 
Holz, Bea Rose, Paxa Lourde, ''Boz," Melquiades, Stephen Marks, Rickie "K," 
Cla\^ton Sheridan, Zoe Noe, Steve Stallone, Black Rose/ Red Star, Ashburi; Press, 
Louis Michaelson, M. Whitson, Diane IV., J. Gulesian, belated thanks to Ron A. 

wm/^K^amm issN 0735-9381 ^^i"""""" 

55 Sutter St. **829, San Francisco, CA 94104 USA 

Here it is, the issue which begets the 

double-digit life of Processed World. 
Why do we keep doing it? The project 
began among a small group of friends, 
rebel artists, and marginal politicos, 
most of whom were doing time as office 
drones. We faced (and still face) the 
same predicament: useless and degra- 
ding work supporting a world system 
whose trajectory toward mutation, if not 
extermination, keeps screaming onward 
and upward. Even less inspiring is the 
ghetto of leftist opposition (old, new, or 
otherwise). None of this has changed 
much since PW first raised its head. But 
what has changed (to get back to the 
question of why we keep persisting) is 
the quality and quantity of responses 
and contributions to the publication. As 
the international contributors of this 
issue aptly illustrate, "we" are no 
longer a small circle of rebellious 
friends living in or around San Fran- 

Processed World is largely shaped by 
its readers and contributors (a separa- 
tion we like to discourage). It is not 
difficult to see at least five kinds of 
people interested: clerical workers; 
high-tech workers like computer pro- 
grammers and technical writers; rebel 
artists, independent radicals, and mar- 
ginal wage workers (obviously many 
overlap into some or all of these 
divisions). This is by no means the total 
picture but even an analysis of this 
particular constellation has yet to be 
developed. Anyone interested? 

Pl/V's first 10 issues reflect a broad 
agreement that the only solution to the 
varied injustices we endure is a total 
transformation of the traditional tactics 
and strategies of change. To that end, 

Processed World has devoted attention 

to: workers' autonomy (as opposed to 
trade unionism); sabotage; and soli- 
darity between the workers and public 
users of certain industries (e.g. mass 
transit, phone service, childcare, etc.). 

PW was conceived as a forum for 
those who can creatively name their 
misery and contribute ideas on how to 
change a world based on it. Though we 
have connected with many new friends, 
and some have gotten involved in 
"doing PW," we have confirmed the 
obvious — there simply aren't hordes of 
fellow wage slaves who share the same 
outlook. The lack of a recognizable 
revolutionary movement leaves us 
somewhat isolated with our desires. Of 
course we do think Processed World 
and similar forums might contribute to 
some kind of promising opposition, 
based in offices, other workplaces, and 

PW as a part of a commodity-domi- 
nated world cannot escape the general 
prison in which our liberatory energy is 
sucked into the vacuum of stupid work 
demanded simply for us to exist. Hey! 
— All you "sugar people," we are 
looking for YOU to help support our 
$300/mo. rent habit! 

While by all means, 'today is a good 
day to fight' all forms of domination, 
Processed World is utterly serious 
about doing it with a sense of humor. 
Hey! Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck! 
* * * 

In this issue we feature several 
articles on the social consequences of 
high technology. The use of high-tech 
as a means of social control is being 
discussed from various angles today, 
but we have not joined the hand- 

Talking Heads 

wringing over the realization of the 
Orwellian nightmare. Instead of focus- 
ing on the linnited prescience of Orwell's 
1984 scenario, the articles take up the 
question of how the dangers of high 
technology can be exposed, resisted and 

"Don't PIS on me" gives an account 
of the battle between W. German man- 
agers and workers over the implementa- 
tion of Personnel Information Systems 
(PIS's) which allow companies to moni- 
tor employees' lives in great detail. (We 
have also just received word from a 
Dutch group that is investigating the 
use of these systems in The Nether- 
lands. Although there has been no pub- 
licity of PIS's in the U.S., these control 
systems are popping up in U.S. work- 
sites, too. 

Distinctions between supposedly 
harmless uses of a PIS and its 'abuse' 
have guided the German unions in their 
negotiations on the new technology. It 
took the agitation of an ad hoc, auto- 
nomous group of workers to bring 
attention to the fact that any use of a PIS 
can be abused, and their efforts pushed 
the union into a firmer stance against 
their implementation. The article offers 
some chilling examples of how even the 
most apparently harmless information 
could be turned against workers and our 
centerfold includes concrete sugges- 
tions on ways to gum up the works. 

The importance of autonomous wor- 
kers' action, independent of official 
union activities, is stressed in Henri 
Simon's analysis of the computer strikes 
which took place in England in 1979 and 
1981. (This article was edited for PW.) 
Simon points out that the British 
unions' interest in keeping close control 
over striking workers undercut the 
strikes' effectiveness, and consequently 
dovetailed with management's own con- 
cern for controlling the workforce. More 
flexible, democratic organization and 
coordination would allow computer wor- 
kers to take advantage of their strategic 
position in production. Contrary to 
writers like David Noble, author of 
"Present Tense Technology," (pub- 
lished in the now defunct democracy 
magazine, and quoted in "Don't PIS on 
Me"), Simon does not believe that wor- 
kers' opposition can be paralyzed by the 
dehumanization and centralization of 

high technology. Whereas Noble has 
argued that the time is now or never to 
resist the effects of automation, Simon 
is optimistic about the emergence of 
new ways to fight against whatever 
forms of social control are devised. 

In a sweeping panorama of daily life 
in Silicon Valley, Melquiades grapples 
with the question of why there isn't 
greater opposition to the high tech in- 
dustry at its most vulnerable point — 
the "technical workers" who design 
and implement the new technologies. 
Melquiades exposes the subtle and 
not-so-subtle ways that the high tech 
industry keeps its workers isolated, ig- 
norant and on the defensive. This 
insider's account of the social conse- 
quences of high tech production puts to 
shame the fawning apologetics ifor the 
industry that recently appeared in 
Mother Jones ("Fast Times For Hi- 
Tech" Dec. '83 issue). 

Fortunately for us, the non-conform- 
ity of some computer programmers goes 
beyond the casual attire that so im- 
pressed the author of the article in MJ. 
Melquiades goes on to describe the 
secret life of the "hackers" and "rai- 
ders" that stalk corporate centers, 
cracking a secret code here, trashing a 
program there. For Melquiades, these 
"deviants" hold the key to our future, 
by virtue of the knowledge and poten- 
tially subversive power that is concen- 
trated in their hands. 

"CLODO Speaks" is an interview 
with a French group of anti-authori- 
tarian hackers and raiders who have 
been successfully practicing sabotage 
for several years. They conceive of 
sabotage partly as an ideological cam- 
paign against the mystique of computer 
technology, as well as a practical 
demonstration of its vulnerability in the 
face of determined programmers. 

This issue's fiction, "Grumbles Down 
Below" portrays a typical SF corporate 
office scene, with an atypical response 
by the workers. Information on VDT 
disasters, a number of interesting po- 
ems and letters, and the exciting con- 
clusion to "BAD GIRL" round out this 
longest-ever issue of Processed World. 
Keep your letters, articles, stories, and 
"Tales of Toil" coming!: Processed 
World, 55 Sutter Street #829, San 
Francisco, CA 94104, USA 

'^ f 

Dear Processed World, 

I used to do office work in San 
Francisco, while I was a film student. 
Now I am "unemployed" in Boston with 
a B.F.A. degree. I won't go into all the 
reasons for the change of location; the 
point is that I am an 'ex' -office worker. As 

A friend who now lives in S.F. turned 
me on to PW and I knew this was 
something I needed — a source of 
support for my decision never to go back 
to that horrible scene (even if it means 
living on the streets, which I have done 
since then). I have read 4 of your back 
issues and they have helped me to 
understand better why I had to make 
this decision. It's certainly good to know 
there are so many other people who feel 
the same way. I have spent a lot of time 
wrestling with my mangled emotions 
about those jobs; trying to figure out 
just how they messed up my head. 

The following piece is an example of 
my attempts to work these things out; 
I hope you can also appreciate the irony 
of the fact that I don't have a workable 
typewriter of my own to type it on, and 
that you will therefore accept this 
handprinted manuscript. (I also had to 
use both sides of the paper to save on 

In Solidarity, 
Bridget Reilly — Boston 

Bridget, please write us again if you 
ever see this — we wanted to write back 
but you didn 't give us an address. . . 

Excerpt from WHY I CAN'T SLEEP by 
Bridget Reilly: 

... I wasn't listened to when I needed 
to be. That is really the root of it all. 
Convicted without a trial. 

"Give me a CHANCE! for Chrissake! 
I'm only human! I only have 2 hands! I 

can only do things so fast!" 

They expected more of me than I 
could give and they punished me for not 
being able to give it. They screamed 
their demands into my ear till I was so 
nervous I couldn't think straight; my 
hands were shaking so I dropped what I 
was carrying; I couldn't do what they 
demanded because I was too nervous. 
And they said it was my fault. They 
didn't listen to my defense. 

"If you'd be easier on me I could do it 

They would just rejoin, "We have no 
place for softies here. If you're not 
tough enough to handle the job, we'll 
find someone who can. YOU CAN BE 

Being able to "work under pressure" 
is considered a virtue in the employ- 
ment marketplace. How many times do 
you see that in the Help Wanted ads? 
"Able to work under pressure. " 

I was "too slow." 

I would give this as a reason why I 
couldn't remain a member of the prole- 
tarian workforce. 

And they would rejoin, "You're just 
making excuses. If you really wanted to 
work, you could find a job." 

I was "just making excuses" for "not 
wanting to work"! I have news for you 
people: I NEVER SAID I didn't want to 
workl I said I didn't want to crawl 
around on all fours and eat shit and say 
"Yes Sir" to some jerk with half my 
intelligence. If that's what they mean by 
"working," then no, I don't want to 
"work." But truly, people, I had 
thought working was something very 
different from that! 

And incidentally, who does enjoy 
eating shit, I want to know?! 

"Oh well," they say, "sometimes we 
have to do things we don't enjoy. Life 
isn't all a picnic. It's a sign of maturity if 
you can accept this." 


Oh. So now I'm "immature" if I 
refuse to have my dignity attacked 40 
hours a week. No one enjoys having 
their dignity insulted, of course, but 
"mature" people learn to put up with a 
certain amount of this in order to keep a 
roof over their heads. That's always the 
bottom line, in their way of "reason- 

"You gotta have a roof over your 

20th-century bourgeois logic. 

And how many years have I chafed 
under their accusations of being a 
"failure" for not being able to conform 

to this ridiculous system of theirs? 

And look what it has done to my 
cerebral capacity, my creative power!! 

And who cares what it has done?!! 

I say it is a crime to break down a 
person's psyche this way, Dammit 
Dammit Dammit!! 


And the blood-sucker known as our 
landlord is their current representative. 
You know, the one who is trying to 
collect the rent I am no longer able to 
pay. The price of the "roof over one's 
head." Now do you understand better 
why I fear him and his kind? 

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Processed World 

They will convict (evict?) me without 
a trial and feel quite righteous in doing 
it. Because it is all in the name of the 
System which their little minds have 
been trained to worship. Because they 
don't see ME at all! 

"I am a person who cares for lifeV ' is 
my last unheard cry. "Does this count 
for nothing?!?!!!!!!!" 


Dear Processed World, 

Liked the article in PW9, Against 
"Fairness" & Fares by Lucius Cabins. 

I don't ride MUNI as much as I used 
to. When they raised the fare from 16 to 
24 bucks I got myself a bike. But when I 
was using it daily I hated like hell to pay 
the full fare. 

I used to use old transfers before they 
developed the new random symbol- 
number coding system. But I was 
wondering — wouldn't it be possible to 
have a hip early morning radio person- 
ality do the people a service by an- 
nouncing which symbol and number 
that was being used that day? 

Just a thought, 
Ed- S.F. 


Dear folks, 

Lucius Cabins: Good MUNI piece — 
I'm glad you did it. A further thought on 
MUNI: As far as I know, San Francisco 
has never prosecuted anyone for pos- 
session or use of a fake fast pass. In 
fact, the police say they don't even have 
a statute under which to charge such an 
offender; the few times they actually 
have arrested anyone, the charge has 
been "possession of a forged steamship 
ticket," which is the closest thing they 
can find to a city or state ordinance 
banning the the use of a phony bus 
pass. I believe the statute is very old. 
Normally, the charge is dropped. 

Keep up the good work, 
T.R. - S.F. 


Dear Processed World, 

As an environmental (and therefore 
political) lawyer, I read with great 
interest and satisfaction the articles by 
Bradley Rose ("Walling of Aware- 
ness") and Lucius Cabins ("Against 
'Fairness' & Fares") in PW 9. In a 
slightly different context (the function 
of "environmental" laws in a capitaHst 
economy) I had arrived at a similar 
conclusion, and was pleased to find 
agreement in a source I respect as much 
as PW. Clearly, any meaningful analy- 
sis or observation of why things are the 
way they are in this country is im- 
possible without a healthy sense of the 
pervasiveness of our economic system. 
So what else is new? 

Oddly, when I read PW 9, I had just 
picked up a book employing a similar 
analysis with respect to American city 
planning in general. The point of the 
book, made with appropriate academic 
flourishes, is that city planning, far 
from being rational or in the public 
interest, is really just another way in 
which society is organized to serve the 
interests of capital. (This is why most 
planning consultants are as much 
whores as are most lawyers.) Of course, 
we knew that too, but now we have a 
BOOK that says so. The book is 
"Dreaming the Rational City /The Myth 
of American City Planning," by M. 
Christine Boyer, MIT Press, 1983. 

However, the question remains, what 
to do? Or rather, how to do it? One does 
one's best against the odds and sleeps 
well at least, but the best that can be 
hoped for is a temporary reprieve, and 
the system stays the same. Maybe, in a 
historical sense, things take care of 
themselves, and the time is not yet upon 
us. Beats hell out of me. If anyone 
knows, please let me know. 

Which brings me, rather clumsily, to 
something I've wanted to write you 
about for months. It seems to me that 
information processors, bike messen- 
gers as well as those who sit in front of 
computer terminals, have a wonderful 
opportunity to commit really important 
sabotage, the costs of which will not be 



passed on to the consumer. I speak of 
passing on information to parties for 
whom it was not intended. Next time 
you come across some confidential 
communication between, say, a drug 
company and a law firm defending them 
in litigation concerning the effects of 
some dangerous birth control device or 
mutagenic drug, remember, you have 
the opportunity to copy it and pass it on 
to the other side. 

Never having been a messenger or 
information processor, I don't really 
know whereof I speak, but it seems to 
me that the possibilities for infiltration 
and subversion are endless. Of course 
this idea has also popped up now and 
then in PW, but effective action would 
require the development of an overall 
strategy for determining what sort of 
information is worth leaking, how to 
recognize it quickly, and who to leak it 
to. One (somewhat unrealistic?) pos- 
sibility is a clearinghouse for this 
information, complete with copying fa- 
cilities and a list of who is on what side 
of what current issue. 

Fred — San Francisco 

Ed.: Good Idea! 


Dear PW, 

The laST FEW months I've experi- 
mented with the temporary office work 
scene. What struck me most about it 
was the sickeningly sweet etiquette that 
all agencies employ; from the lilting 
voice of the receptionist to the saccharin 
interviewer who politely impresses how 
valuable you the employee are to the 
agency, and how very much they care 
about you (or worse yet they use a 
videotape machine to tell you the same); 
to the bloodless purges when they whisk 
you off a job without ever telling you 
you're being fired — less brutal than 
the loud knock on the door by midnight 
thugs, but no less effective in making 
sure that you disappear without a trace. 

In my journeys through the temp 
world, I managed to drop loose journal 


entries, like a trail to retrace my steps 
back through the labyrinth. Of the three 
excerpted here, the first two are unre- 
touched spilling during practice time for 
typing test at interviews; the third entry 
was composed without benefit of a 


* * * 

(1) What am I diing 

here, taking a typing test when I hardly 
even know how to type — I'm up here 
on the 13th floor with my misspleed 
words. Can you spell "authority" 
"management", "success"? Can you 
pour coffee into the xerox machine till it 
cooks? What is the true nature of 
success? Is it taking a dive from the 13th 
floor to a trampoline below and then 
parachuting back up again/? 

Here I go remember a coulpe of 

weeks ago. Working at Macy the kind of 
terminal boredom that seeps into your 
bones the way below zero cold does, 
5:30 pm came, and as soon as I hit the 
ground floor I start ed running for the 
exits — emerged onto the street, gave a 
whoop and yelled 'I'm human Again!", 
and all the passersby looked at me and 
smiled, as if they knew, "he's been 
working at Macy's today." Iwent to 
Telfords to pick up some clove ciga- 
rettes before they tured into pumkins, 
was walking fast up Kearny street, 
encountered a womanat one corner who 


Processed World 


The coffee isn 't as good with \;ou gone, 
and the rain doesn't feel cozy, just cold. 
8:35. Work has sucked ]^ou down into 
the Metro's maw, and I'm next. 

Oh, this is the wa]^ of the world, the world. 
Growing older, euer^/thing begins 
to center around a single word: 
Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! 

by David Steinberg 

looked like someone I know, and she 
gave an enthusiastic hello and I re- 
sponded with an equally enthusiastic 

hello, and she said, "NO, not you!" 

* * * 

(2) Another fuckin; Ibm selectric! I 
thought of using this machine to type 
my resume, but I don't think I habe 
time, plus by aboninable ytyping accur- 
acy ViV^ I ought to at least by able to 
start training myself to use bh little 
fingers more, just like I'm tying to do on 
the bass guitar. 

i like this machine a lot — wish I 
could steal it I could use the practice. 
What? Practice stealing or typing? 
Well, if I stole it, I could get practice 
doing both%/ Such miserable weather 
outside — Ikept dodhing people's um- 
brellas—why can't these financial dis- 
trict types just learn to walk inthe rain? 
It might actually soften up some of that 
headOprocessing that's become hard- 
ened in there since day 1. Is this a 
comedy/ in how many unnatura; acts — 
that this is where I get all my practice 
typing, here in the lifeOforsaken fanan- 
cial district where I gert to use the 
typewriters for free. Is anything else in 
the financial district free? writers for 
Well, walking is cheap, Idon't know if 
I'd call it free. Gos, this receptionist! 
(I'm at Volt) Did she learn to talk off of 
the t.v.? She's like a characature of a 
syrupy receV^tionst, though I bet she 
can type better than me— better than 
that — Ishouldn't complain- like this 
morning in the living room, unemployed 
Michael, and unemployed me just com- 
ing back from Food Stamps, while 
hippie dope-dealer roommate walks 

in, sits plops on the couch, & starts 
counting his hundred dollar bills, right 
under our noses — I found it a tad bit 
insulting, like driving past those Bank 
of America "We got the money!" bill- 
boards thsi summer — why don;t you rub 
our faces in poverty a little bitO, but just 
a little bit — I'm not really complaining, 
just observing — on this, another one of 
ny typing test/ loose journal entries — 
call me the Herb Caen of the financial 

district underfround. 

* * * 

(3) People don't like the word "fuck." 
It's unprofessional, or so my agency 
counselor told me after I used it while 
being hassled by a security guard when 
I showed up for my new job this 
morning. So I became the first job 
casualty of '84, pulled off the job less 
than two hours into the first working 
day of the new year. Temporary agen- 
cies remind me of old style Chinese 
marriages, where it's possible for a 
husband to lose face by any wrong thing 
his wife says or does. In this case, I can 
cause my agency to lose face simply by 
opening my mouth at a given moment, 
and leave the agency scrambling on the 
phone to save face and arrange a 
quickie divorce. 

G.B. — San Francisco 


Dear PW: 

I found it interesting the number of 
letter writers who express the idea that 
technology is neutral. I'm sure that all 
agree that nukes aren't — but short of 
that ... Maxine's response was OK, but 
I think the point needs to be hammered 
home that the design of machinery, etc. 
incorporates the class relations and are 
aids in perpetuating the class relations. 
It's not that the essential idea of, say, 
the internal combustion engine, electri- 
city or computers are themselves so 
capitalistic we must get rid of them, but 
that when concretized in commodity- 
form they are not only employed by 
capital (or sold to 'consumers') but also 
help ensure capital's power. I'm sure 

Letters 9 




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you know this one — I just think that it the idea reaches here, 

needs to be emphasized. It means also M.N. — Boston 
that we won't, ultimately, simply be 

able to appropriate and use, but will fl/lfl 

have to appropriate, often re-design, JUCX 

sometimes junk, and then use — and Dear Processed World, 

this will take some time. I work as a Library Assistant at the 

If the technology gets to the point University of California, Berkeley. In 

where those transit passes can be case you didn't know, practically all of 

replicated using recording tape, I hope the traditional librarian's work is now 


Processed World 

done on CRTs. Cataloging serial publi- 
cations (what I do in my half-time 
position) is basically a programming 
activity now, since one must "code" the 
"worksheets" for subsequent input into 
a computer terminal. The traditional 
card catalogs have been replaced by 
computer-produced microfiche cata- 
logs, and these in themselves represent 
a half-way point to a future, and totally 
on-line catalog. I am responsible for all 
the bibliographic searching (searching 
for catalog copy already in the database 
that has been put there by other li- 
braries) for the material in my division, 
hence I spend anywhere from half to 
three-quarters of my time sitting at a 
computer terminal each day. 

I have very mixed emotions about my 
position. Granted, working for the state 
is different than working for the private 
sector (I feel that I am working for the 
public good, and not for someone's 
personal gain), but the business ele- 
ment has begun to pervade the library, 
and there are now not just a few "dress 
for sucksess" types running around. 

Furthermore, I do not feel that com- 
puterization of library work is one-hun- 
dred percent bad. The time it takes 
publications from the point of receipt to 
the patron's hand as a fully cataloged 
item complete with call number and 
subject headings has dropped consi- 
derably. Since access is the name of the 
game, as it were, in the library world, 
this quickened rate of accessibility to 
the patron is almost worth the asso- 
ciated problems of worker welfare, etc. 
However, I do resent the fact that the 
University Administration resists the 
problems associated with CRTs, and I 
do resent the fact that people's inter- 
actions have been altered to the point of 
petty arguments about whose terminal 
is whose, etc., and I do often feel like 
smashing the terminals at the end of a 
long session of searching/inputting. 

So, anyway, that is my position. 

C.S. - Berkeley C A 


Dear PW: 

Since I met you last July I've moved 
to New Yawk City, where I am now staff 
editor of a "consumer computer maga- 
zine" for "educational, home and busi- * 
ness uses of a new machine... and so I 
penetrate further into the belly of the 
beast, and as I go the PW critique/ana- 
lysis of the world of work makes more 
and more sense... Of course, I've 
already tussled with my editor (who is 
sexist, infantile and a nurd — very 
sweet but the jokes he makes about 
Charo...) over style. He's a mother hen 
who wants to make his baby (this new 
magazine) a successful offspring of the 
publishing company's other horribly 
successful magazine... and where is the 
room for cultural critiques of computers 
in people's lives?... 

So what am I doing here?., it is still 
true that writing articles is inherently 
less boring than writing software user's 
manuals, although new products blurbs 
and reviews of programs that do tax 
returns at home aren't exactly fascina- 
ting. And it's quite remarkable how the 
editor dumps the routine shitwork on 
the women on the staff, and leaves the 
"fun" stuff for the males... I found 
myself reading Games Mother Never 
Taught You, expertly discussed in a PW 
a few issues back, just to understand 
what the fuck was going on around me. 
An evil book, that... 

Of course my bad attitude shows 
here, and I wonder what outcome my 
move here will have — I know I'm 
fundamentally alienated from what I'm 
doing whereas my editor is happy as a 
clam about the whole thing — and it can 
only be a matter of time until he psychs 
that one out... 

But here I am, cranking out copy... 
my one hope is to slip in my glimpses of 
another way of looking at the world by 
trying to get an article I'm working on 
on the ethics of software piracy pub- 
lished (I see them as the analog to 
graffitti artists, turning the whole con- 
cept of private property on its head), 
mentioning PW in the publications 
section of 'my' new products column, 




Living in New York is quite some- 
thing. The sexism, the money is all that 
matters, everyone is out for themselves. 
None of the Bay Area living lightly on 
the earth/ecological sanity stuff here. It 
is a city where there is no access to 
anything without money, and with a 
class/caste system that rivals anything 
a medieval city would have to offer. I 
find myself incredibly resentful that I 
cannot live on the salary I'm paid 
(because of my rent and utilities, which 
are both three times higher than the 
Bay Area)... I will have to moonlight. 
Dammit, it's enough that I put 40 hours 
a week into a windowless airless closet 
staring at a VDT! I've only been in NYC 
for about 6 weeks, and am reeling from 
the culture shock. 

P.B. - New York 


Dear Processed World, 

This is a piece I wrote which I 
distributed via bathroom and inter- 
office mail to secretaries while working 
as a Kelly Girl for a big company... 

Almost everyone, unless they're very 

lucky, or unless they don't care, experi- 
ences some conflict between Good (later 
to be known as "idealistic") and Crum- 
my ("reality"). There is a conflict 
between what is moral and what gets 
the job done. In the world at large 
women are moral so men can go to work 
without feeling guilty. 

Although women don't stay home and 
care for the cradle of morality much 
anymore because they have to make 
money, the situation works about the 
same way in the office. Women have a 
kind word in the morning, and it's 
expected of them. They make an effort 
to look nice. They feel bad when things 
go wrong. They put up the Christmas 
decorations, which are a little silly, but 
make amidst the beige feel a little better 
anyway. Women talk about things like 
parties and food and clothes, which 
often proves to men what they thought 
all along, that women can't really think 
about much that's serious. But nice 
words and pretty faces help men 
through the day. Without them, they 
might realize how heartless their effi- 
ciency and profit-morality can be. And 
they might not make it to happy hour, 
and might not be able to negotiate 


Processed World 

million-dollar contracts for nuclear wea- 
pons basing systems without feeling 

Men also resolve their personal moral 
conflict in the office (if they still have 
one and haven't been completely 
numbed by company policy) by being 
nice. They don't have to be nice, and 
they know it. Sometimes they aren't 
nice at all and make demands without 
bothering to say thank you or please. 
But when they are nice it's really nice 
and they feel much better for it, even 
though it's something that's always 
expected of women. And women are 
very grateful. 

Lots of times women don't feel so 
much better being nice because they 
have to be nice. It can take a lot of 
energy and patience sometimes to smile 
and say "of course" and do something 
that doesn't make any sense to you or to 
the world. And it can be very difficult to 
do a lot of detail work that the people 
you're doing it for don't think is very 
difficult. It's just word processing, and 
you're a word processor. It can be very 
difficult to continue to care. 

Women don't get much out of being 
nice. They don't get paid as much, even 
though they take more of the burden. 
They don't get to go out to lunch for 
long, and the company doesn't pay for 
it. All they can do is spend a little time 
in the bathroom now and then. And wait 
for the weekend. 

There is, of course, the possibility of 
not being so nice. That could make 
working a bit less pleasant, but at 
certain moments it might be appro- 
priate. Like when there's an unreason- 
able request. Like when someone else 
feels like a mean bastard and wants you 
not only to take his feeling but to come 
back being nice. 

Things aren't always so nice. Things 

Public Poetry Part 1 1 

Artists Banned From Universe 
' 'We hired you to paint us a picture ! ' ' 

by Linda Thomas 

that the company does aren't always so 
nice. Sometimes by not being nice it 
makes those uncomfortable or upsetting 
things a little more clear. And makes 
what you think about them clear, too. 
And how you feel. Just because women 
are supposed to feel, it doesn't mean we 
can always feel good about things. 
Sometimes it's good to feel that things 
are really crummy... 

And do something about it. 

L.F. - S.F. 

Dear PW: 

US Government office workers are 
among the most processed anywhere, 
especially since Ronnie Ray-gun zapped 
the air traffic controllers. Ever since 
then the government employee 
"unions" have been meek as kittens 
(before that they were only as meek as 

Here at the Department of Housing 
and Urban Development (DHUD) work- 
ers have watched passively as virtually 
all housing programs for the poor were 
gutted. The predictable result is that we 
ourselves have been subjected to cruel 
and unnecessary "Reductions In 
Force" (RIF), obviously designed not to 
save money but to intimidate workers. 
In 1982, for example, some 8-10 em- 
ployees were laid off using the RIF 
process but along the way about a 
hundred workers were moved around, 
down-graded and subjected to terrible 
psychic stress. 

This year (1983) about 20 computer 
operators and an equal number of 
library workers are being RIFfed. Not 
that there's any lack of work, of course, 
management has just discovered a new 
form of exploitation. 

The process is called "contracting- 
out." The agency offers to sell these 
jobs to the lowest bidder. A number of 



companies compete to see which can 
offer to do the work for the lowest 
possible price. None of them employ 
organized workers, of course, and all of 
them explicitly promise to browbeat, 
oppress and exploit their workers to 
guarantee no "labor unrest." Part of 
the deal is that anyone the DHUDs 
don't like will be fired — no questions 
asked, no hassles, no reasons. 

You might have expected the em- 
ployee's representative (AFGE) to pro- 
test, picket, or somehow fight to protect 
the workers' jobs. Nothing of the kind. 
The union let out hardly a peep — no 
voices were raised. Ray-gun has set the 
stage perfectly. 

As a final note — the firings are 
scheduled to be effective on December 
23rd, 1983. Merry Xmas! 

On our new collective bargaining this 
year the only really positive note was 
the inclusion of a clause requiring some 
attention to the safety of Video Display 

Given the atmosphere in DHUD these 
days I would appreciate your not using 
my name. 

G.F. - Reston, VA 


Dear Processed World, 

In an otherwise excellent analysis of 
the phone strike in issue #9 {"The Line 
You Have Reached... Disconnect It!''), 
Lucius Cabins should have gone fur- 
ther. Why expose the "moribund and 
obsolete strategies imposed by a decay- 
ing trade union movement..." without 
critiquing the pathetic 'demands' this 
union was fighting for. As the article 
noted, "AT&T overcame union de- 
mands for guaranteed job security..." 
and "No specific job protection guaran- 
tees were made." C'mon, the unions 
(and Cabins) should stop pretending 
and wake up to the modern world. 
Guaranteed Job Slavery (GJS) is a dino- 
saur that is now impossible and never 
was desirable. Guaranteed slavery at 
the same demeaning, stupid, dangerous 
job — forget it! The irony is that the 

capitalists in their ceaseless drive for 
production efficiency strive to decrease 
human labor. Those fucking unions 
would keep us working like mules 

Regardless of the unions' nostalgic 
demands or wimpy concessions, new 
technology and automation are (and 
should be) obliterating jobs in all sec- 
tors. For instance, robotics is replacing 
people in some of the most onerous and 
hazardous jobs — die-casting, forging, 
paint spraying, arc welding, etc. Sure, 
management is only doing it for the 
reduced labor costs and quality control, 
rather than worker safety. But the 
unions never seek to eliminate such 
jobs, their business is to reform them to 
create the illusions that you aren't doing 
the same old, dirty shitwork. Instead of 
bargaining for GJS, why not accept the 
reality of technological displacement 
and fight for Guaranteed Income and 
Benefits? It is only fair that corporations 
should bear the social costs of massive 
layoffs including maintaining the stan- 
dard of living for its "post-employable" 

If such a demand seems too 'un- 
realistic' for you, take a look at the 
Greyhound strike for a dose of pragma- 
tism. Their thoroughly realistic de- 
mands boiled down to good 'ole GUS 
(Guaranteed Union Survival) — at any 
cost. For example, no amnesty provi- 
sion for the strike activists, 100 of whom 
got the axe. This after caving into the 
same 7.8% wage cut (14% including 
benefits) union members originally re- 
jected. For another example of union 
realism, ask the 15,000 steelworkers 
recently laid off how conceding to large 
wage and benefit cuts last year saved 
their jobs. What a cruel hoax! In neither 
case did the unions possess enough 
militancy or imagination to counter 
management's quest for quantitative 
concessions with qualitative demands. 

Such a strategy of seeking reciprocal 
concessions was attempted (with partial 
success) by three unions representing 
workers at Eastern Airlines. Although 
workers took substantial wage and 


Processed World 


Iheie'sonlYone logic al direc tion 



market : 

Government and industry, 

working together,! 



and increase bureaucracy... 


benefit cuts, in return they gained 
ownership of about one-fourth of the 
company and effective veto power over 
the formulation of a new business plan 
and financial restructuring program. 
They also gained unrestricted access to 
corporate financial information but gave 
up their boldest proposal in which 
workers would have the right to call 
managers before a "management re- 
view board" to challenge corporate de- 
cisions and policies. 

Ironically, since unions can't deliver 
on the bread and butter issues anymore, 
all that is left are the qualitative issues 

over the work process itself. Unfor- 
tunately, the most common tendency is 
toward worker co-ownership of a cor- 
poration (often headed for bankruptcy) 
without workers gaining actual power 
over workplace decisions. This brings 
us to the two crucial issues unions 
should be facing: gaining effective 
control ofthe labor process (e.g. how new 
technology is designed and imple- 
mented) and guaranteeing that the 
growing number of 'post-employables' 
retain their standard of living. Of course 
that raises the question of vision. Can 
unions imagine (much less advocate) a 



world with less workers doing even less 
work? Can they conceive of destroying a 
system in which real workers' power is 
inconceivable? Most importantly, how 
much longer will workers keep believing 
unions are capable of acting in their 

E.G. — San Francisco 


Dear PW, 

Lucius Cabins' article on the phone 
strike in PW#9 was interesting and in- 
formative. However, I disagree with his 
attack on unionism. Unions are not 
"capitalist institutions" as he states, 
they are clearly "workers' institu- 
tions." Unions are simply organiza- 
tional forms by which we can fight col- 
lectively to better our lot. Fighting 
collectively obviously gives us more 
strength whether that fight be in a 
factory or an office. 

I believe that the present day union 
leadership is an obstacle in any struggle 
between capital and labor. And I believe 
the unions are inadequate instruments 
for bringing about a real revolutionary 
change in society. But, let's not throw 
out the baby with the bath water. Let's 
get rid of our unions' misleaders and 
transform our unions into real class 
struggle organizations, not get rid of 

Cabins counterposes "direct action" 
to "obsolete strategies imposed by a 
decaying trade union movement." He 
should read some labor history to find 
out about some of the "obsolete strate- 
gies" that unions can use and have 
used. He should read about some of the 
battles of the labor movement in the 
1930's such as the San Francisco gene- 
ral strike, the Toledo auto strike and 
factory occupations and the Minneapo- 
lis Teamsters' strikes. 

In Minneapolis, for example, the 
labor movement organized unemployed 
councils, had pitch battles with the cops 
— and won. They controlled the city for 
a time. They conducted traffic, decided 
what trucks would move in the city and 
what ones wouldn't. They made al- 

liances with farmers' organizations so 
that the people of Minneapolis could 
eat. This was all done by the unions. 

These and other struggles of that 
period led to the rise of the CIO and a 
better form of organization, the indus- 
trial union as opposed to the craft union. 
Millions of workers were organized into 
unions during this period. 

However, after World War II, U.S. 
capitalism far outstripped its competi- 
tion abroad, which had their economies 
destroyed or badly damaged by the war. 
It was the "American Century." There 
was a tremendous expansion of U.S. 
capitalism. This expansion allowed for 
concessions to be granted to the U.S. 
workers in an attempt to stop the 
growing radicalization in the unions. 
The government, in collaboration with 
the conservatives in the labor move- 
ment drove the radicals out of the 
unions and consolidated a conservative 
bureaucratic leadership that still hold 
the reins today. The rank and file 
accepted this because during this period 
of concessions, the "business union- 
ism" of this leadership seemed to work. 

Today the situation is different. In 
spite of periodic, minor upturns, the 
capitalist system is in a deep structural 
crisis. Dozens of third world countries 
are on the verge of default on their 
loans. A single such default could mean 
the collapse of the capitalist banking 
system. The banks are demanding that 
severe austerity programs be imposed 
in these countries so that their loans can 
be repaid. This, and other economic and 
political factors, have led to a dramatic 
increase in revolutionary struggles of 
workers and farmers throughout the 
colonial world. 

In the U.S. the economic crisis 
combined with the increasing competi- 
tive ability of Western Europe and 
Japan, has forced the employers to go 
on the offensive against the U.S. work- 
ing class and especially our unions. 
Concession contracts, worse health and 
safety conditions, increased racial and 
sexual discrimination and slashing of 
social services are the norm today as 


Processed World 

employers try to increase their compe- 
titive standing and profits by driving 
down the living standard of the U.S. 
working class. 

As a result, attitudes in the U.S. 
working class are changing. There is a 
questioning, a groping for answers. 
How do you fight concession contracts? 
How can we insure job security? An- 
swers to these types of questions can 
only be given in broad political terms. 
The answers point to the need to change 
the whole social system to one where 
production is organized to satisfy hu- 
man needs not for profit. 

The changing moods in the working 
class can be seen by formations such as 
the Labor Committee for Democracy 
and Union Rights in El Salvador, or the 
endorsement by the AFL-CIO of the 
August 27 march for Jobs, Peace and 
Freedom when 20 years ago they 
refused to endorse the march whose 
anniversary this one was celebrating. 
Or the United Auto Workers opposition 
to the invasion of Grenada. Or the 
discussion around the formation of a 
labor party that has been taking place in 
the International Association of Machi- 
nists, the United Steel Workers and the 
Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers and 
other unions. These developments are 
reflections of the changing conscious- 
ness of the U.S. worker, not enlightened 
positions of the tired union leadership. 

It is through this radicalization that 
the unions' leadership will be changed 
and the unions can be transformed. 

For radical minded people such as 
Cabins to abandon the labor movement 
at this point would be a serious mistake. 
The discussion taking place in the labor 
movement needs to be joined by people 
who have a perspective that can help 
workers draw revolutionary conclu- 
sions. In the immediate period ahead, 
there will be more, and more vicious, 
labor battles as the employers and their 
government try to break our unions. We 
must be prepared to defend our unions 
and to help the unions move forward to 
a better understanding of what needs to 
be done and to organize more workers. 

especially in the new high-tech and 
computer industries. 

Those who fail to see this and who 
attack the unions from the left as the 
employers attack them from the right 
may find themselves in the wrong camp 
in the battles to come. 

J.L. — Cincinnati OH 

Dear J. L., 

Radicals have been trying to ' 'get rid 
of our unions' misleaders and transform 
our unions into real class struggle 
organizations" for at least fifty years — 
since the formation of the CIO, in fact. 
Their results? Countless radicals burned 
out, ' 'successfully ' ' elevated in the 
union hierarchy and transformed by the 
pressures of the situation into bureau- 
crats in their turn. Your picture of union 
' 'conservatives ' ' allying with the gov- 
ernment in the 40 's to drive out the 
' 'radicals ' ' is grossly oversimplified. 
What is one to make, by this analysis, of 
such men as John L. Lewis or Phillip 
Murray, architects of the CIO, who 
often defied the government or the cor- 
porations, but crushed dissent within 
their unions? 

You talk as if "class struggle" were 
inherently antagonistic to capitalism. 
Actually, it is a primary motor of 
capitalist development. The struggle of 
the 30' s, safely contained within the 
framework of industrial unionism, 
helped lay the groundwork for the 
post-war expansion, "shaking out" 
smaller and weaker capitals and es- 
tablishing the "Keynesian" system of 
industry-wide productivity bargaining 
mediated by the government. 

Of course there was another side — 
the early control won over output and 
working conditions, the experience of 
self organization, solidarity and defi- 
ance of authority, and so forth. This is 
the side of "class struggle" which is 
potentially revolutionary, because it 
creates the possibility of a collective 
challenge to the ruling order. But this 
kind of activity must either spread and 
deepen rapidly into generalized revolt, 
or else disappear, as the radical shop- 
floor practices of the early CIO disap- 



peared. Contrary to fond leftist belief, 
this disappearance is only secondarily 
the result of ''bureaucracy" and "mis- 
leadership." Far more important was 
the simple re -adaptation of the im- 
mense majority of workers to the 
{revised) norms of proletarian exis- 
tence, in exchange for improvements in 
wages and conditions. The present state 
of the unions is largely the result of this 
re -adaptation. Membership apathy 
breeds bureaucracy and no amount of 
"correct leadership" by itself will 
change this. 

A new workers' revolt in the U.S. is 
certainly possible, but it will have little 
to do with the unions. In the first place, 
their entire structure {and the labor 
laws which they fought for and are 
defined by) is designed for winning 

concessions in a time of worldwide 
capitalist expansion. As you point out, 
this time is past. Secondly, the new 
workers' struggles in Europe and else- 
where over the past decade have cen- 
tered around refusing work rather than 
winning more money. The stupidity, 
pointlessness and obsolescence of mo- 
dern work escapes the unions {and most 
leftists) completely, but they have been 
the main flashpoint of revolt, in the last 
decade. We aren't denying the eventual 
possibility of large-scale workers' or- 
ganization; but it won't be "unionist," 
since it will be the organized expression 
of a movement which is attacking the 
wage system and the money economy 
much more directly. 

— Louis Michaelson 


Use of this 

product is a 

known cause of 




Processed World 



[PW#8] of which I made about 30 copies 
was a big hit around the office and 
created decent conversation. A burly 
workman delivering furniture got quite 
a chuckle (in a very cynical-knowledge- 
able tone — he caught the absurdity) 
from it. Others liked it so we taped it in 
various strategic locations. I left PW #8 
around for people to leaf thru. One 
person made another 15 copes to hand 
out to friends. 

Then when PW #9 arrived I made 
copies of BAD ATTITUDE which I gave 
to potential or closet malcontents it 

delivered certain sly smiles of clandes- 
tine solidarity. 

Upon closer reading of #9 I ran across 
that very informative and thoughtful 
letter warning of potential CRT hazards. 
I copied THAT one too and left it on my 
boss' desk and he was duly impressed 
and is now going to buy any safety 
equipment available. But happy as that 
makes me it still makes me wonder 
about those millions of others with less 
sympathetic bosses. 

I've thus created a bit of a stir 
fortified by your informative pages. 
Thanks for legitimizing my suspicions 
and my political diatribes from the past. 
B.P. — New Jersey 





As we walked along a ridge high 
above Death Valley, the desert heat 
rose and filled our pores. We were 
technical workers from Silicon Valley 
in search of quiet desolation. Sudden- 
ly, a boom filled the sky. A dark blue 
{"Navy?''), unmarked ("experimen- 
tal?''), F-14-like craft ("Sure, the 
China Basin Naval Weapons Center is 
due west of here!") flew directly 
overhead at about 1,000 feet. Gaining 
altitude above the Valley, the craft 
dipped and spun, performing center 
stage for us all the amazing things its 
computer-driven, aluminum- alloyed 
geometry could do. 

We took turns fixing this blue angel 
in our sights, countering its superso- 
nic roar with the tight pop and 
lingering echo of our .357. Our bullets 
fell short of their target, heaving and 
gliding several miles across the Val- 
ley. The craft returned and buzzed us, 
but our smiles glistened in the late 
autumn midday sun. Secretly, we 
toyed with a force far more powerful 
than ourselves. 

What we found at Death Valley was 
a noisy reminder of the death we 
thought we left behind in Silicon 
Valley: the nuclear missiles, the com- 
mand and control devices, the big 
brother office automation systems. 

and the simulated battlefields that 
technical workers create there. In the 
solitude above Death Valley that day, 
we had confronted one of their pro- 
ducts on its own terms. How might we 
really confront the technological Le- 
viathan in Silicon Valley — on our 

terms ? 

♦ « ♦ 

Rush hour. A heavy metal San Jose 
radio station airs "career" slots for 
Valley corporations. An alluring voice 
describes the "unique ROLM cul- 
ture" where "the future is now." 
ROLM workers design guideince sys- 
tems for cruise missiles and office 
communication systems with surveil- 
lance features. Rush-hour-paced traf- 
fic signals inject more workers from 
San Jose's sprawling FMC Corp. into 
the queue of late model vehicles. 
FMC workers design emd construct 
tanks, personnel carriers, £md Per- 
shing II launch vehicles. 

At IBM, engineers joke uneasily 
about the next fatality on blood alley, 
an evil stretch of the U.S. 101 com- 
mute south of San Jose. They gripe 
about roving squads of security 
guards who randomly enter unoccu- 
pied offices to check for papers left on 
desktops. Too many "finds" get IBM 
engineers in trouble. IBM has recent- 


Processed World 

ly contracted with the Air Force to 
streamhne communications at the 
"Blue Cube," the U.S.A.F. SateUite 
Control Facility headquarters along- 
side Moffett Field near Mountain 
View. The Blue Cube commands and 
controls virtually every U.S. military 
intelligence and space navigation sa- 
tellite as well as listening outposts 
from Greenland to Turkey. 

Business is brisk at a Valley water- 
ing hole that discounts drinks to 
patrons sporting polo player logos on 
their shirts. Lockheed Space and 
Missile workers awkwardly avoid be- 
ing overheard talking shop. They 
bitch about waves of security guards, 
elaborate screening devices, and fatal 
accidents in Lockheed's massive park- 
ing lots. Lockheed makes missiles to 
order. Most of the orders issue from 
the Lawrence Livermore Labs 
(LLLabs). The LLLabs house pluton- 
ium triggers and are nestled on a web 
of active earthquake faults a few miles 
inland from the Valley. Technical 
workers at the LLLabs, which is 
funded by the Dept. of Defense £md 
mgmaged by U.C. Berkeley Board of 

Regents, have designed virtually ev- 
ery U.S. nuclear weapons device since 
the Manhattan Project. 

At the Stanford Research Institute 
(SRI) in Palo Alto, researchers speak 
cryptically about new computers they 
will requisition to fulfill defense con- 
tracts. SRI workers do pure military 
R&D on VLSI (very large scale inte- 
gration) computers for missile gui- 
dance applications; they also design 
tedious plans to load maximum fire- 
power into C-130 tramsport planes for 
rapid U.S. troop deployment. 

At 800 feet and lower over (un- 
aware?) Valley residents, submarine- 
hunting, nuclear-depth-charge- 
equipped P-3 Orion aircraft cruise 
ominously, landing and taking off 
from Moffett Field every few minutes. 
At least twice in recent months, huge 
runway fires have gone unreported. 
Moffett Field is the Navy's western 
theater air operations headquarters 
and a NASA research center site. 

The once fertile lands along U.S. 
101 from Palo Alto south to San Jose 
absorb more R&D funding than £iny- 
where else in the world. Silicon Valley 


We're Bill Kissit, Senior Systems Engineer. 

"I love the challenges Comtek sets me," Bill 
says. Bill is currently working on a chip that 
will help track down naughty peasants in 
Central America. 


''People Like You 

Helping People Like Us 

Help Ourselves" 

The Chips Of Our Lives 


is also perhaps the most military-de- 
pendent economy in the country. 
Additional billions from beinks, insur- 
ance conglomerates, and real estate 
speculators fuel the technology en- 
gine. The engine fans the practical 
fascination of technical workers — 
who build today's office-accounting, 
intelligence-gathering, and war-ma- 
king technology. 

The worklife revolves around £in 
exchange. In exchange for relatively 
fat paychecks, skilled people design 
and develop new (or revolutionize old) 
technology that less skilled and less 
well-paid people manufacture and 
ship. For the corporate keepers of the 
exchange, the profits are immense, 
the competition often overwhelming, 
and the less said about poisoned 
water, clogged freeways, and military 
applications, the better. The techno- 
logy produced by the exchange is 
some of the most sophisticated and 
hostile imaginable. 

The exchange generates horrible 
consequences: a mutant culture, a 
toxic physical environment, and a 
contradiction: workers produce tech- 

nologies that threaten their loved 
ones, and the rest of us, with immi- 
nent danger. Management is respon- 
sible for creating the contradiction, 
for making the "decisions." But the 
responsibility is shared by technical 
workers who, after all, design and 
produce the technology and often 
collaborate intimately with manage- 
ment in the process. 

Technical workers here create use- 
ful adaptable technologies, too, but as 
a rule, only if corporate executives see 
a clear and sizeable profit. Individuals 
who can afford these technologies — 
like home computers — may take 
amusement or benefit from them. But 
in design and application, most Sili- 
con Valley technologies reflect cor- 
porate and military "needs." And 
why not? Corporations and the Penta- 
gon are by feu- the largest consumers 
of local technology. Its boeird-room- 
and-war-room conception intimately 
influences how all of us C2ui use and 
are used by it. 

The logic of this girrEuigement de- 
pends upon the loyalty of the tech- 
nical workers who make corporate and 


Jack Twitchley, Systems Analyst, who 

45K a year and puts half of it up his 
We don't mind, though. It keeps him 
nd when he gets too strung out, we'll 
fire him. There's plenty more where 
he came from. 


"People Like You 

Helping People Like Us 

Help Ourselves" 


We're Gerry Batts, Systems Programmer. 

Gerry likes his little joke: last month he broke 
into the central files at the Fort Benning, 
GA., Bacteriological Warfare Lab and wiped 
the memory. "All in fun," smiles Gerry. 
Let's hope he never makes any serious 


' 'People Like You 

Helping People Like Us 

Help Ourselves" 

military pipedreams into practical 
technologies. The engineers, scien- 
tists, and specialists (i.e., technical 
workers) are the key to understeinding 
the ferment in Silicon Valley. Their 
labor is in most demand and least 
expendable to employers. Technical 
workers are the weak link. Rarely 
have so few held such enormous po- 
tential subversive power. 

There are three categories of wor- 
kers in Silicon Valley: "offshore" 
production workers, local production 
and office workers, and at the high 
end, the technical workers who design 
and support Valley technology. Local- 
ly, nearly 200,000 people work for 
high technology firms. The largest 
employers are the military electronics 
firms, like Lockheed Space and Mis- 
sile in Sunnyvale, and semiconductor 
corporations, like giant chipmaker 
Intel in Santa Clara. Lockheed alone 
employs about 21,000 people at its 
Sunnyvale complex. 

Holding It All Together By 
Keeping Everyone Divided 

The working conditions for most 
local production workers are among 

the most dangerous anywhere; it is 
appallingly worse for offshore wor- 
kers, and generally safer for the 
engineers, scientists, and specialists 
like me (I'm a technical writer). 

Worst off among Valley workers are 
the unseen offshore workers — the 
single women who assemble and 
package chips for Silicon Valley semi- 
conductor firms in Singapore, Hong 
Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, 
South Korea, and Ted wan. Most semi- 
conductor firms employ roughly half 
of their workforce offshore. In ex- 
change for 7-8 years of labor, these 
women receive as little as 30 cents an 
hour £md a lifetime supply of occupa- 
tional diseases. 

Tragically, most local Valley wor- 
kers are simply ignorsmt of their 
unseen offshore fellow workers. Off- 
shore Valley employers, abetted by a 
virtual local media blackout on the 
topic, are tight-lipped on the details of 
their foreign operations: "loose lips, 
sink chips." (For background infor- 
mation on the untold story of Silicon 
Valley's offshore production workers 
see "Delicate Bonds: The Global 

The Chips Of Our Lives 



We're Oprimida Menendez, Assembler. Op- 

rimida's a real miracle worker — supports 
five kids and a laid-off husband on the mouse- 
droppings we pay her. 


"People Like You 

Helping People Like Us 

Help Ourselves" 

Semiconductor Industry," Pacific Re- 
search, 867 West Dema St., Mountain 
View, CA 94041). 

The division of labor among local 
workers reflects the Valley's status 
quo sexism and racism as well as the 
ferment peculiar to high technology 
companies. Production workers tend 
to be female, Chiceino, Filipino, and 
Indochinese; entry-level pay varies 
from minimum wage to $6-7 an hour. 
Office workers, until recently, were 
overwhelmingly female and white; 
now somewhat less white. 

Engineers, scientists, and special- 
ists tend to be male and white 
(including anti-Soviet eastern bloc 
refugees) with a sprinkling of Japa- 
nese, Indigin, Chinese, £ind Middle 
Eastern graduates of U.S. technical 
schools. Entry-level salaries vary 
from $22,000 to over $30,000. 

Perhaps the most conscious divi- 
sion between Valley workers is how 
they are paid; production and office 
workers are hourly wage workers — 
engineers, scientists, £ind specialists 
are salaried workers (many of whom 
sign their own time cards). The basic 

division is known in Valleyspeeik as 
"non-exempt" £ind "exempt" status. 
Salaried workers Eire exempt from the 
Fair Labor Steindards Act provisions 
regulating the amount of overtime 
people can be forced to work. Their 
salaries theoretically reflect unpaid 
overtime. Wage workers are "non- 
exempt" from the overtime statutes. 
Their wage rates, generally half or 
less of salaries, climb to time and 
one-half for overtime. 

The tendency is to lump high-sal- 
aried, exempt-status "profession- 
als" together with sales £ind manage- 
ment types. But there is a trade-off. 
Management exploits technical wor- 
kers' exempt status, often ruthlessly. 

At a medium-sized company that I 
worked at for a year, management 
suddenly announced one day that it 
was now expecting exempt workers to 
put in ten hour days for the next six 
months. Many of us simply ignored 
the dictum, but others unquestioning- 
ly obeyed — initigdly. 

At Intel, exempt salaried workers 
are informally coerced by manage- 
ment into working over 8 hours daily 


Processed World 

"Elect me and there'll be 
Dip for every Chip!" 

Chips For President 

Eind on weekends. IBM and Hewlett- 
Packard boast about job security, and 
a formal no-layoff policy. But IBM 
and HP demand regular intervals of 
overtime from their employees. 

Self-Destructive Production: Why? 

Why do technical workers often 
eagerly consent to design and pro- 
duce the hostile and dangerous tech- 
nology conceived by their corporate 
and government employers? 

Part of the answer lies in the isola- 
tion that corporations build in to the 
exempt technical workers' environ- 
ment. Pay, benefits, expendability, 
and exposure to physical dgmger 
divide hardware and softw£ire engi- 
neers, technicians, and technical wri- 
ters from production and office wor- 
kers. Many medium to large Valley 
firms maintain one set of buildings, 
limchrooms, washrooms, and recre- 
ation facilities for exempt technical 
workers and gmother, less desirable, 
set for production workers. ROLM 
maintains its "MILSPEC" division at 
one site, and its office automajtion 
division and headquarters at another 
site . 

The hierarchy created by the divi- 
sion of labor adds to the isolation. 
Salaried workers have access to 
scarce technical knowledge; they de- 
sign the commodities that make pro- 
duction workers' jobs an empty, alien 
process — deciphering blueprints, 
fitting mysterious chips onto myster- 
ious green boairds. This contributes to 
a subconscious relationship between 
production and design workers that 
takes feimiliar forms: out on the line, 
women's jobs depend upon higher- 
paid men who deliver the work. 

The separation of a product's ap- 
plication from the workers who design 
the product imposes another crucial 
isolation. More and more, electronic 
and mechanical engineers and com- 
puter programmers are genuinely 
ignorant of the precise application of 
the products that they design. 

It is now standard practice to divide 
design work on a task by task basis; 
hardware designers work on one 
board, or often one chip, at a time, 
unmindful of the application. A new, 
"structured" approach to program- 
ming formalizes a similair practice in 
computer software. Progrgimmers 
write "slave" modules of code that 
perform relatively simple tasks, like 
counting transactions and storing the 
total in a certain file. Project leaders 
can assign an entire computer pro- 
gram design without explicitly men- 
tioning that, for example, the Penta- 
gon will use the software to refine an 
experimental missile. A project team 
can thus fully derive satisfaction from 
the intellectual challenge of success- 
fully designing a product, yet not 
know what it will be used for. This 
way, all applications appear equal; 
there is no need — or desire on the 
part of management — for more than 
a handful of project leaders and mar- 
keting types to know about a final 

Management benefits directly from 
this separation. Many people may not 
enjoy creating office automation tech- 
nology and weapons systems that 
enslave and destroy life. But if the 
work appears as harmless as a game 
of chess and offers high pay, stock 
options, etc., well, so much the better 
for management. With clever decep- 
tion, all of us are held hostage to the 
intimate division and manipulation of 
scarce skills. 

Salaried technical workers £ire also 
often deeply divided amongst them- 
selves. Everywhere I have worked, 
they have been unawEire, for exsimple, 
of each other's salary, since salaries 
are negotiated individually. At some 

The Chips Of Our Lives 


'Beating the System' 


firms, I have heard that discussing 
salEiries is grounds for dismissal. This 
makes it easier for msmagement to 
hide pay differentials for women, 
minorities, dissidents, and those who 
are generally unaware of how high a 
salary they can plausibly negotiate. 
The mystery is celebrated in the myth 
of corporate "professionalism" that 
likens technical workers to lawyers 
and doctors — competing profes- 
sional entrepeneurs with secrets to 

As a pre-Thanksgiving surprise in 
1982, the illusion of "professional- 
ism" was revealed when many of my 
fellow workers were greeted at their 
cubicles by grim security guards one 
morning. In a scene played over and 
over again in the Valley, the guards 
announced the employee's "termina- 
tion," scrutinized the removal of 
personal property from desks and 
benches, 2ind escorted astounded 
workers directly to the door, where 
final paychecks were waiting. This 
way, laid-off workers £ire informally 
held incommunicado until safely out- 
side the workplace. That corporations 
relieve their highly paid technical 
workers in such a manner suggests 
that power such workers have to 
inflict immediate disruption and de- 
struction. Before it was all over, 10% 
of the workforce had been "dis- 

Strange Fruit 

Many production workers are the 
daughters of migrant farm laborers 
who once planted, harvested and 
canned Valley fruit and vegetables. 
Today most of the fields are paved 
and the canneries torn down or auc- 

tioned off, reminders of the sweeping, 
destructive power of the new tech- 
nology. A new generation of produc- 
tion laborers works inside fluorescent 
hothouses amid gases and with chem- 
icals that poison themselves and the 
water supply that once nourished the 
fruit £uid vegetables. 

The chemicals deployed by the 
semiconductor industry are danger- 
ous and persistent. Hydrofluoric and 
hydrochloric acids are used to etch 
chips ; arsine and phosphine gases are 
used to give chips electrical proper- 
ties; trichloroethylene (TCE) and 
1,1,1 trichloroethane solvents are 
used to clean the chips. Other work- 
place chemicals here include ben- 
zene, chloroform and vinyl chloride. 
These have made the occupational 
illness rate for semiconductor workers 
three times that of manufacturing 
workers in general; all electronics 
workers experience a job-related ill- 
ness rate twice that of the general 
manufacturing rate. 

Valley corporations and private 



Processed World 


graphic by Valbar 

clinics notoriously understate the ex- 
tent of human and environmental 
poisoning. In June, the California 
Department of Industrial Relations 
refused to accept occupational illness 
data submitted by several Valley 
firms. The state plausibly suggested 
that National Semiconductor, Signe- 
tics, Siliconix, eind Fairchild were dis- 
guising the effects of toxic chemical 
exposure on their workers, explaining 
absentee rates as flu, colds, and 
non-work-related ailments. This sum- 
mer, angry workers demonstrated at a 
local private clinic, claiming the clin- 
ic's doctors routinely ordered workers 
back to work the same day they 
checked in with on-the-job illnesses or 
accidents. The clinic collects its fees 
from local industry. It is standard for 
many Valley employers to "process" 
injured or ill employees at such clinics 
first, before sending workers to the 
hospitals covered by their fringe 

The very substances that bring the 
processed sand called silicon to elec- 
trical life are destroying a delicate 
Valley environment and threatening 
workers at their workplace and in 
their homes with C2mcer Euid genetic 
mutation. The toll on the once rich 
Valley soil and environment is pro- 
bably irreversible. 

The Valley floor consists of intricate 
layers of gravel, sand, £uid clay that 
hold a precious water supply in under- 
ground aquifer. Before the post- 
WWII electronics binge, the aquifer 
gmd rich soil deposits combined to 
make the ** Fruit Bowl of America," 
where half the world's prunes £md a 
bounty of apricots, cherries and wal- 
nuts were produced. Today, under- 
neath the suburbs, shopping centers, 
freeways, and industrial "parks," 
waste chemicals percolate through 
the porous upper layers like tap 
water through coffee grounds. Dan- 
gerous chemicals have been dis- 

The Chips Of Our Lives 


covered at no less than 56 sites in Santa 
Clara Valley. By its own admis- 
sion, the state lacks the resources and 
obviously the will to make more dis- 

Valley water is now an ongoing 
source of gallows humor. Many peo- 
ple no longer drink untreated Valley 
tap water, at home or at work. Others 
have learned the hard way. Miscar- 
riages — and only time will tell what 
else — appeared in the vicinity of a 
major ground water contamination by 
Fairchild in San Jose last year. 
Recently, a private water supply com- 
pany announced that it would no 
longer bother to drill new wells in a 
heavily populated San Jose area, so 
bad were the results of ongoing tests 
at existing and proposed well sites. 
Santa Clara county's outrageous ban 
on public disclosure of industrial 
chemical information reinforces the 
deadly habits of industries here. 

Like L.A., many future and existing 
population centers in the Valley will 
have their water piped in. Local media 
and government units react to the 
news of poisonings by wringing their 
hands — and by approving vast new 
parcels of wilderness and agricultural 
areas south of San Jose for industrial 
development. (For confidential infor- 
mation on chemicals at your work- 
place, call the SCCOSH — Santa 
Clara Center for Occupational Safety 
and Health — hotline number: 408- 

'Your chips or your life! 

Corporate Cult-ure 

Paradoxes are plentiful in Silicon 
Valley. In the heart of technological 
affluence, the largest engineering 
school in the Valley (San Jose State) 
has announced it will probably close 

its doors indefinitely. The school's 
comparatively low teaching salaries 
are not attractive to Valley engineers. 
In 1983, the Valley's unified county 
school district was able to successfully 
claim bankruptcy (a first in post- 
WWII California) and deny a raise 
won by district employees. 

In recent months, shakeouts in the 
home computer industry (shortly after 
IBM and Japanese firms entered the 
market) caused huge and ongoing 
layoffs at Atari (1700), Victor (1650), 
Osborne (almost everyone) and else- 
where; in general, the slump in most 
non-military electronics companies 
caused nearly Valley-wide cuts in pay 
and benefits and layoffs. So tenuous 
are the good times here that a recent 
Association of Bay Area Governments 
study, citing crumbling roads, 
clogged sewers, contaminated water 
supplies and growing competition 
from Japan and Europe — warned of 
a collapse of Silicon Valley by the year 
2000. Strange developments in a 
Valley that is showcased as proof that 
free enterprise and high technology 
promise future prosperity. 

Today, the stage is set for many 
semiconductor workers' jobs to go the 
way of agricultural Valley jobs. State 
of the art wafer fabrication and 
assembly technology is rapidly ap- 
proaching a point where entirely new 
automated labor processes are now 
financially and technologically feas- 
ible. Many production workers al- 
ready experience the eerie feeling of 
wondering if the chip they package, 
the board they stuff, or the parcel 
they ship will be used in a missile, or 
a nuclear-powered submarine. Now 
semiconductor workers can legiti- 
mately wonder if the silicon they 
process will transform their job into a 
lower paycheck, an even more boring 
routine, or a job search. 

The housing situation is literally 
impossible for tens of thousands of 
Valley commuters who dangerously 
clog local highways from mutant bed- 
room plots that sprout up in outlying 

Processed World 





lowlands or foothills. You must either 
inherit wealth or pool together two 
salaries to seriously entertain the idea 
of purchasing a home. Homes aver- 
age over $100,000 in most Valley 
* 'communities . ' ' Meuiy two-income 
couples who buy homes insteintly 
become poor homeowners. 

Rental "units" in Sguita Clgira 
Valley range from $450-$575 for bach- 
elor £md 1 -bedroom apartments — 
£uid even these are scarce. What you 
get is a relatively new, uninsulated 
set of paper walls tucked unimagi- 
natively into a multi-unit slab. The 
units are as a rule cold, deimp and 
mildew-infested during the winter, 
and unpleasant to come home to. 
Amid the presumed Valley affluence, 
people crowd into apartments and 
hand others down to friends and 
relatives to avoid the leaps in rent that 
accompany new leases. Landlord as- 
sociations successfully defeated two 
recent rent control measures that 
made the ballot in Mountain View and 
Sunnyvale. As it is, rents increase 
15-24% Emnually at my complex. 

Thanks to the housing situation. 
Valley commutes are growing longer 
and slower at all times of the day. 
Forty minutes to navigate 6 miles of 
traffic is common. It is an hour or 
more for residents of bedroom com- 

munities, one way! One of the reasons 
employers offer flex-time to salaried 
technical workers is simply to ensure 
that they will arrive at work. The 
Valley does have mass transit facili- 
ties — a thinly spread bus system aind 
a workhorse train line between San 
Francisco and San Jose that has been 
in receivership for the last decade. 
Generally, a bike is dangerously out 
of the question. A car is a necessity. 

The high fixed costs of housing and 
transportation in the Valley reinforce 
the attachment to paycheck. The 
result is tiers of wage and salary 
slavery; high-salaried workers, for 
example, who C2in afford their own 
home but little else. Valley residents 
pay dearly for pieces of the prosperity 
denied many others these days, but 
which were once within reach of most 
smokestack industry workers. 

Well-to-do Valley youth cruise the 
streets in 4-wheel drive vehicles; 
Chicane youth bounce alongside in 
low-riders. Shopping malls, apart- 
ment units, duplex and single family 
ranch style homes. . . there is not much 
variety to relieve the senses in the 
Valley. There is little or no sense of 
community where one lives or shops. 
Even if you have money, there simply 
are not very many interesting things 
to do with it. 

Quite naturally, drugs tend to fill 
the vacuum. Drugs for work, home, 
and play. During a recent holiday 
evening, authorities expected appro- 
ximately 1300 dangerously drunk dri- 
vers on the road in the Valley. In 
$300,000-home foothill communities 
like Saratoga, cocaine and quaaludes 
are discreetly sold in steak and ale 
houses. In plant parking lots, 
"crank" of every variety circulates 
among production workers. In the 
Santa Cruz Mountains that abut the 
Valley, approximately $100 million in 
marijuana is harvested twice yeeirly. 

Against a drab cultural and social 
life, "perks" like corporate-spon- 
sored Friday-night "beer busts" and 
pastries and coffee every morning 

The Chips Of Our Lives 


create a semblance of warmth £ind 
friendliness. More th£in a few cor- 
porations are building country club 
facilities on premises. At ROLM, you 
can play racketball, tennis, basket- 
ball, volleyball, swim laps, lift 
weights, enjoy a steEim bath, sauna, 
and shower, without ever having to 
leave work. For recent emigres, and 
there are many, a corporation can 
become something of an oasis from a 
hostile and racist Valley culture. The 
desired effect here is a company life- 
style that sinks a hook into technical 
workers whose scarce skills are indis- 
pensable to meet the competition. 
ROLM's is a calculated investment, 
and its executives are probably onto 
something: Valley job turnover rates 
are a notoriously high 29% to 35% 


It's Friday night. Four exempt 
technical workers have gathered in a 
motel-style apartment with a com- 
puter terminal, a modem, and the 
acquired instincts and phone numbers 
we could muster. On similar occa- 
sions, we have "owned" computers 
at universities in California and New 
York. My friends recently had their 
way with a small computer at a giant 
Valley chipmaker, finally trashing it 
just the other evening. Some of us 
also have lines to the computers at our 
own workplaces. 

Tonight is special. We have just 
successfully connected to a huge com- 
puter belonging to a software lab of 
the world's largest corporation. I 
watch while professionals acquire 
privileged status, probe, zind write 
several backdoors for future access. 
No trashing tonight. 

Like most people. Valley technical 
workers grew up with little, if any, 
immediate exposure to open, col- 
lective rebellion against established 
authority. They are accustomed to 
taking risks — like drinking the water 
at their workplace — and to occa- 
sional individual rebellion — like quit- 


Ji^t as an animal is trapped 

I i^eqr that clock is standing still 

If dfam p peace, then let it come 

If this f^'life, I've had my fill 

ipsleefkm02ns dreams, then give me some 


still must pla]^ the slave 
it bhch under my breath 
The^stSOl m\^ time and dig m\; grave 
While Tike p robot I behave 

We work to live, and live to work 
We see tqe world through the tv set 
N4ver§onte letting loose to go berserk 
They praise us, thinking, "They're 



The boss is just another liFrk 
He tells us what is told^to'%i 
He feels it as we starve 
Beneath his slime. Ite sk 
The Light shines (mm '* 

By metal teeth, ulifEik 
We bleed quite slowlu 
But this time man i^ii 
And no one knows justfy^ 
For all the iron claws 
And all the virgins have 

by Kurt Lipschutz 

ting a job because of an unreasonable 
workload or boss. But they 2ire largely 
unaware of the far more effective 
tactics of collective rebellion — tactics 
which generally reduce individual 

There is much truth to the stereo- 
typing of engineers as conservative 
nerds with little or no social con- 
sciousness or overt human feeling. 
During the gmti- Vietnam war move- 
ment, many of today's Valley engi- 
neers were cloistered in technical 
institutes or mathematics and engi- 
neering departments of universities. 
Others willingly accepted draft defer- 
ments in exchange for a classified job 
at Lockheed or Boeing. Today, mainy 
of these people are electrical and 
mechanical engineers who design anti- 
social technology and honestly believe 


Processed World 

in a strong American defense against 
a heartless communist evil. After all, 
engineering grads have been con- 
ditioned to accept government tech- 
nology requirements as their bread 
£md butter since their school days. 

There are also workers here who 
actively rebelled culturally and po- 
litically during the ferment of the late 
60's/early 70's. Many were student 
radicals in high school or in university 
liberal arts curriculums who have 






Chips in Love 

since found a living in computer jobs 
through retraining or self -training. 
Today these people tend to cluster in 
occupations such as computer opera- 
tors and programmers, graphic ar- 
tists and technical writers, and are 
generally open to subversive ideas. 
Then there is a whole new generation 
of youth, once again subject to draft 
registration, who are suspect of any 
kind of authority. It is from these 
latter groups that sparks of rebellion 
have begun to fly. 

Hacking and raiding — illegal 
probing and sabotage by computer 
hobbyists — is a revealing phenome- 
non. Computer managers cringe at 
the thought of raiders breaking in. 
But there is generally no defense 
against it. The people who write com- 
puter software — including security 
protocols — are a deviant lot. Most 
programmers that I know either learn 
a system they've worked on well 
enough to break in at will, or instgdl 
backdoors — private entrgmces — to 
systems. And the comraderies that 
develop naturally among program- 
mers at work spill over into play. It is 

commonplace for programmers to 
exchange the telephone numbers, 
passwords, and if necessary, back- 
doors to one or more of their cor- 
poration's computers. Often such 
gifts are in exchange for an illegally 
gotten source code to an operating 
system or some new program under 
development. Thus, on and off the 
job, many programmers have secret 
access to each other's systems — a 
kind of underground network. 

The thought of high-tech sabotage 
repels some people because it can 
take anti-social directions that are 
terrifying. But the responsibility for 
hacking lies firmly within the system. 
Corporations who condemn the social 
irresponsibility of hacking but manu- 
facture nuclear missile guidance sys- 
tems richly deserve what hackers 
often give them: trashed disks, tape- 
worms, nightmares, and migraine 
headaches. Hostile technology is 
breeding strange rebellion, of which 
hacking is one obvious form. It is not 
the open, constructive activity that 
social rebellion can be, but it is an 
accessible form of rebellion around 
which a kind of counter-culture may 
emerge. That counter-culture can cre- 
ate a needed independence from the 
sterile and dangerous corporate cul- 
ture that dominates the Valley. 

It would be wrong to characterize 
all Valley technical workers as a com- 
placent lot. The large and growing 
corporations that employ them tend to 
impose an increasingly irrational and 
rigid division of labor that makes even 
intellectually challenging work bo- 
ring. The long, military-like corporate 
chains of command are natural breed- 
ing grounds for discontent. 

Technical workers, especially ex- 
empt technical workers, have been 
spoiled by the many benefits and high 
salaries that they C8in individually 
negotiate due to the current high 
demand for their scarce skills. Tech- 
nical workers may not give up these 
spoils easily when a greater supply of 
engineers and programmers makes 

The Chips Of Our Lives 


today's favorable labor market less 
so. They may even begin to discover 
their collective power. As it is, small, 
collective rebellions are already an 
unpleasant fact of life for Valley man- 
agement. Increasing technical worker 
militance could clear the blurred line 
that currently divides and overlaps 
many technical workers £ind manage- 
ment here. But the prospects for bat- 
tles between employed Eind employer 
cannot be confined to such one- 
dimensional workplace issues as sal- 
aries and benefits. 

Another dimension is how con- 
scious technical workers can become 
of the real social impact of their tech- 
nology — not the glossy fairy tales 
depicted in trade and business maga- 
zines. For it is the technology here 
that makes the social power of dissi- 
dent Valley technical workers poten- 
tially explosive. 

If technical workers' loyalties con- 
tinue as they are, there may be little 
hope for much of the rest of the world, 
so concentrated has the control of 

technical knowledge become in so few 
brains. The technology itself has 
become so powerful that control over 
technical knowledge is crucial to the 
outcome of any sweeping social 
change. After all, who is better 
qualified to safely dismantle a missile 
silo, a breeder reactor, a chemical 
waste dump, or a Pentagon super- 
computer than the people who design, 
build and maintain such technology? 
Society has endowed technical wor- 
kers with concentrated power to lib- 
erate technology from the logic that 
currently dominates it. There are 
cities to rebuild and lives to remake. 
We have the power and practical 
imaginations to make lasting contri- 
butions to a new society of less work 
and more play for all; or we can play a 
tremendously destructive role in 
stacking the deck against these oppor- 
tunities. This is not Death Valley — or 
doesn't have to be. Not if we begin to 
take responsibility for it — not if we 
begin to challenge the logic. 

— Melquiades 

LINE UP FOR MUNI — for the last time 

Different destinations for each end 

SPEED ACROSS the Golden Gate Bndge 
Six lanes northbound 
(No toll, except human) 


On presentation of pass, bearer is 
entitled to board and ride any remain- 
ing Municipal Railway passenger ve- 
hicle, if less than 500 people are on 
board Use subject to condition of 
roads and existence of bridges San 
Francisco Public Utilities Commis- 
sion reserves the right to supercede 
other passengers Use will be no 
longer subject to any rules or regula- 
tions, other than expiration date; 
Time Zero plus two milliseconds 



Magnetic strip will not function. 


Processed World 




Before a kind of TV screen with buttons to push, all 
unrelated to the beloved alphabet, 

and with a printer going nearby/ and much 
clucking and whirring 

and the steady; hatchet of electronically; and 
mechanicalli; coordinated activities, 

I see words like "activities," "restrictions," 
"committee," "commission," "employer," 
"employee," "employee benefit," "evidence," 
"value," "determination," "burden," 

going by, going by. 

The same fifty to sixty words, - 
by my estimation. 

going by 

in myriad variations 
over and over again. 

In the middle of the page 

as the sun is setting 

outside of windows 
I cannot see, 
the word "night" appears. 

[^ 1 do know and truly understand that 

opinion evidence is the weakest and least 
reliable form of evidence. If it is rele- 
vant, however, it is for this Commission 
to determine its merit. Unless it bears 
a discernable relationship to the factual 
evidence presented in support thereof, sub 
stantiation of which is part of the burden 
of respondent, it is of little probative 

for all I know this, the word "night" 

still provokes an illegal shudder of delight. 

It is very real evidence. 

Night falls across the page; 

the stars begin to glow 

and a light rain falls from low clouds. 

^ ■1 t ^T T TT" T ^^^ 


There is a crackling of leaves beneath the feet. 
Drops of rain slap into those 

leaves and make a growing thunder. 
The angel of my heart walks quietly beside me 
No words are spoken and none are 

typed in on the horizon. 

It is a special night of due process. 
I leave it for the proofreader to catch 
and give to someone else 
for attention and correction. 

by N.M. Hoffman 

Sporadic acts of sabotage against 
companies involved in nuclear plant 
construction began to take place in 
the region of Toulouse, France in 
mid-1979. This occurred at the height 
of vigorous, broad-based regional 
opposition to the construction of the 
GOLFECH nuclear power plant on the 
Garonne River. But the local anti- 
nuke movement reached an impasse 
in early 1981, when it became clear 
that GOLFECH would continue una- 
bated. Despite, or because of this im- 
passe, sabotage became more fre- 
quent and the targets more diverse. 

In June 1983 a stolen bust of Jean 
Jaures, famous Socialist of the 1900' s, 
apppeared hanging by the neck from 
a tree in front of city hall A ''suicide 

note, " signed by Jaures and ''ed- 
ited'' by the "Association of Mischief 
Makers, ' ' denounced the current So- 
cialist government for repressive, 
authoritarian policies. According to 
the note, Jaures regretted a life 
wasted on the futile path of advancing 
the social-democratic cause, which 
had come to such an ignominious end. 
In the following months, several 
attacks on Catholic bookstores and 
religious statues {including the bust 
of Pontius Pilate near the famous 
religious shrine at Lourdes), signed 
by a "Stop the Priests" campaign, 
protested the visit of the Pope and the 
"Vatican Multinational Corporation. " 
That same summer a number of com- 
panies and governmental offices that 


Processed World 

were directly or indirectly involved in 
the GOLFECH construction suffered 
serious damage by explosion and fire. 
While different groups, often with 
humorous names {"A Heretofore Un- 

known Group'') and punning acro- 
nyms, have claimed responsibility for 
these actions, the tone and content of 
their communiques reflect a common 
perspective. The ' 'Committee for the 

and Subver- 
. sion of 
Computers, " 
known by 
its French 

CLODO [an 

able slang 
term which 
means some- 
thing like 
''bum'') has 
claimed re- 

CLODO Speaks 


for six actions over the past three 
years, most of them involving torch- 
ing or otherwise destroying computer 
centers. The most recent action oc- 
curred in October 1983 when the 
offices of SPERRY - a U.S. -owned 
computer manufacturer — went up in 
flames. Nearby, graffitti read ''Rea- 
gan attacks Grenada, SPERR Y multi- 
national is an accomplice. " 

Though CLODO' s emphasis on 
computer technology reflects a speci- 
fic area of expertise and interest, they 
are ideologically close to the other 
saboteurs of the region: they claim to 
work as an ad hoc grouping, as- 
sociating around particular actions 
and interests, and eschew the notion 
of themselves as a formal organi- 
zation. They have no rigid rules and 
principles and tolerate considerable 
diversity among individual partici- 
pants; they distinguish themselves 
from traditional left groups by their 
rejection of a * 'vanguard ' ' role, their 
explicitly anti-authoritarian playful- 
ness and a sense of humor that they 
wield as an ideological weapon. 

One French newspaper described 
the saboteurs as part of an "anarcho- 
libertarian'" movement that is based 
in Toulouse. In another "interview'"' 
with a group that conducted simul- 
taneous "fireworks'" at two sites of 
nuclear-related production in August 
1 983, ' 'Groucho ' ' exp lains : 

"People talk a lot about the silent 
majority and it gets a lot of press. But 
there is also a muzzled minority that 
can only express itself through politi- 
cal and social rejection, because it 
rejects the sham of democracy. It 
doesn't demand the right to free 
speech, the right to justice, the rights 
of man — it takes these rights, or at 
least it tries to. This minority exists, 
be it organized or disorganized, at- 
omized in the social fabric, revolu- 
tionary or deviant. In our practice, we 
affirm its specific character. We have 
no illusions about the propaganda of 
ideas, but we support everyone who 
can no longer stand injustices and 

contributes their little recipes to sub- 
vert a capitalized daily life." 

French authorities denounce the 
saboteurs as deranged and inhuman, 
always pretending that it's only by 
chance that no one gets injured. In 
fact, the obvious caution demonstra- 
ted by this particular brand of sabo- 
tage {there have been no human 
casualties in the acts described here) 
is clearly distinct from the bombs in 
trains and other public places world- 
wide that continue to claim innocent 
lives in the name of this or that 
' 'liberation organization. 

The following ' 'interview ' ' was sent 
to the French magazine Terminal 
19/84 (1 rue Keller, 75011 Paris 
FRANCE) and appeared in the Octo- 
ber 1983 issue. 

{In PW §5, Gidget Digit mentioned 
CLODO in her article "Sabotage, the 
Ultimate Video Game. " Limited in- 
formation on their activities and ideas 
led to what I believe to be false, or in 
any case, premature, conclusions 
about the group 's ideas and practice 
{e.g., there is no evidence of an 
"authoritarian internal structure" in 
CLODO, as far as I can tell) .) — MH 

An End To Myths 

Why did you accept this interview? 

We've always felt that acts speak 
for themselves, and we decided to 
write a communique only because of a 
(presumed?) member of a so-called 
armed, and in any case ephemereal, 
organization tried to pass off our acts 
as something they aren't. In the face 
of the propaganda of Power, which is 
particularly stupefying when it is 
about computers, and to end some 
m3^hs about us, we felt some ex- 
planations have become necessary. 

Demystifying Computers 

Why do you do computer sabotage? 

To challenge everyone, program- 
mers, and non-programmers, so that 
we can reflect a little more on this 
world we live in and which we create, 


Processed World 

and on the way computerization trans- 
forms this society. 

The truth about computerization 
should be revealed from time to time. 
It should be said that a computer is 
just a bunch of metal that serves only 
to do what one wants it to do, that in 
our world it's just one more tool, a 
particularly powerful one, that's at 
the service of the dominators. 

We are essentially attacking what 
these tools lead to: files, surveillance 
by means of badges and cards, in- 
strument of profit maximization for 
the bosses and of accelerated pauper- 
ization for those who are rejected... 

The dominant ideology has clearly 
understood that, as a simple tool, the 
computer didn't serve its interests 
very well. So the computer became a 
parahuman entity, (cf. the discussion 
on artificial intelligence) a demon or 
an angel — but capable of domesti- 
fication (computer games and tele- 
communications were supposed to 
persuade us of this) — anything but a 
zealous servant of the system we live 
in. In this way they hope to transform 
the values of the system into a system 
of values. 

By our actions we have wanted to 
underline the material nature of the 
computer- tools on the one hand, and 
on the other, the destiny of domi- 
nation which has been conferred on it. 
Finally, though what we do is primar- 
ily propaganda through action, we 
also know that the damage we cause 
leads to setbacks and substantial 

Doesn't the spectacular, radical as- 
pect of the destruction you cause 
seem a bit outrageous? 

These actions are only the visible 
tip of the iceberg! We ourselves and 
others fight daily in a less ostensible 
way. With computers, like with the 
army, police or politics, in fact, like 
with all privileged instruments of 
power, errors are the rule, and 
working them out takes up the major- 
ity of programmers' time! We take 

advantage of this, which undoubtedly 
costs our employers more than the 
material damage we cause. We'll only 
say that the art consists of creating 
bugs that will only appear later on, 
little time-bombs. 

To get back to your question — 
what could be more ordinary than 
throwing a match on a package of 
magnetic tapes? Anybody can do it! 
The act appears excessive only for 
those who don't know, or who don't 
want to know, what most computers 
systems are used for. 

Then how do you explain the fact that 
others haven't done similar things? 

To tell the truth, it's hard to ex- 
plain! WE are in a good position to 
know that most computer workers 
really participate with their "work 
tools" and rarely use their gray 
matter to reflect on what they do (they 
generally would rather not know 
about it!). As for those who don't 
work with computers, they are uncon- 
cerned or they passively accept the 
dominant propaganda. 

But that doesn't explsdn every- 
thing, and even those who do resist 
the soporifics of power are still scared 
of police uniforms! 

Computers Could Be Used for 
Something Else 

Aren't you really a bit retro, like the 
machine breakers of the 19th Cent.? 

Faced with the tools of those in 
power, dominated people have always 
used sabotage or subversion. It's 
neither retrograde nor novel. Looking 
at the past, we see only slavery and 
dehumanization, unless we go back to 
certain so-called primitive societies. 
And though we may not all share the 
same "social project," we know that 
it's stupid to try and turn back the 

Computer tools are undoubtedly 
perverted at their very origin (the 
abuse of the quantitative and the 
reduction to the binary are proof of 
this) but they could be used for other 

CLODO Speaks 


ends than the ones they now serve. 
When we recognize that the most 
computerized sector is the army, and 
that 94 % of civiUan computer-time is 
used for management and account- 
ing, we don't feel hke the loom- 
breakers of the 19th Century (even 
though they fought against dehuman- 
ization in their jobs). Nor are we 
defenders of the computer-created 
unemployed... if microprocessors cre- 
ate unemployment, instead of redu- 
cing everyone's working-time, it's 
because we live in a brutal society, 
and this is by no means a reason to 
destroy microprocessors. 

Attacking Multinationals 

How do you situate your actions in the 
context of France and the rest of the 

Computerization is world-wide. In 
the Third World, it helps to reinforce 
the ideological and economic domina- 
tion of the West, especially the U.S., 
and, to a lesser extent, of local power. 
We therefore consider that our strug- 
gle is global, even if that sound exag- 
gerated given the pin-pricks we actu- 
ally accomplish. 

What are your projects for the future? 

Little by little the theory of com- 
puterization that we have been de- 
veloping for several years is getting 
fleshed out. On the whole, though, it 
remains unchanged since computers 
are still basically being used by the 
same people for the same things. So 
there is no reason not to continue in 
the same direction. With more imagi- 
nation, and at our own pace, even if 
the result is less spectacular than our 
previous actions. The rapid pace of 
automation and the forthcoming ex- 
plosion of telecommunications opens 
a wider field of action and revolt. We 
will try to fight in these areas, 
knowing that our efforts are partial. 
There's room for all rebels! 

What are your chances of success? 
Aren't you afraid of getting caught? 

Our chances are fine, thank you. 

We've got the motives and the ideas, 
and among the blind, the one-eyed 
are kings. 

For more than three years a secur- 
ity court of the State (may it rest in 
peace) and several dozen mercenaries 
have been looking for us: their mater- 
ial resources are sophisticated but 
pretty insufficient and our last action 
against the information center of the 
Haute Garonne municipality must 
have shown them we know more 
about them than they know about us! 

We are nonetheless conscious of 
the risks we run and the scope of the 
arsenal we are running up against. 

May our next interview not be with 
a police magistrate! 

Toulouse — August 1983 

Translated & Introduced by Maxine 
Holz . \ 

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Don't PIS on Me! 



The Case of ISA 

ISA is a Personnel Information 
System (PIS) designed to classify em- 
ployees and workplaces. For every 
employee and workplace, an array of 
specific facts is gathered and stored. 
ISA, in its initial form, was intended 
to cover 300 characteristics and crite- 
ria for each workplace and employee. 
Data collected and stored on employ- 
ees include: 

• Employee training and education 

• Intra-company career tracking 

• Personnel Deployment and Deve- 
lopment Planning 

• Medical data 

ISA provides profiles on groups as 
well as on single individuals and 
workplaces. But ISA is only the tip of 
the iceberg. A more extensive crea- 
tion is being developed by Daimler- 
Benz [large auto manufacturer] and 
carries the acronym PSI. PSI inte- 
grates ISA data with information 
previously held by personnel depart- 
ments. To do this, all available col- 
lections of personnel data are re- 
structured and copied onto modem 
storage systems in order to be in- 
stantaneously accessible. This more 

comprehensive system has the 
lowing additional capabilities: 

• Payroll 

• Personnel Capabilities Analysis 

• Personnel Research 

• Punctuality and Performance Re- 

• Health Monitoring 

A quick human-language software 
called CULPRIT is being developed 
for use by executives with no data 
processing background (requirement 
for using CULPRIT: knowledge of 
Enghsh). Access to PSI functions and 
databases is hierarchically organized: 
the higher the rank in the company, 
the wider the view. 

In 1978 a union representative was 
informed of the development of ISA. 
In subsequent negotiations, the 
Daimler-Benz Board of Directors just- 
ified the system as a means of finding 
suitable, easier jobs for older, "pro- 
ven" employees. But in order to find 
those jobs, they argued, they needed 
to perform ein analysis on every job 
and every employee. 

In the second half of 1979 the real 
story began to unfold. While the 
General Works Coxmcil [A factory 
workers advisory board, elected by 


Processed World 

the workers themselves, with some 
"co-determination" rights. In Daim- 
ler-Benz's case, there is a General 
Works Council covering all D-B fac- 
tories along with individual factory 
works councils.*] for Daimler- 
Benz and the union's Board of Di- 
rectors (IG-Metall) agreed to a trial 
run, a "poster" group [A general 
term, descriptive of tactics, for an 
autonomous, ad hoc group of workers] 
led a resist£mce campaign. By leaf- 
letting and writing articles for the 
factory newletter, they convinced a 
majority on the factory Works Council 
to oppose ISA, chiefly on the issue of 
use of medical information. 

When the Board of Directors of 
Daimler-Benz refused to grant the 
workers any voice in the matter, the 
council decided to protest and seek an 
agreement through a petition drive. 
Even with the summer hoUdary un- 
derway, around 9000 signed. As a 
result of this drive, the firm halted 
further implementation of ISA and 
agreed to negotiate. 

Under pressure from the poster 
group, the Works Council sought the 
following conditions of agreement: 

• That the system be restricted to 
the goal originally put forth, namely 
the deployment of workers with so- 
called "reduced capabilities." 

• That the council's agreement [Mit- 
bestimming] be secured for every 
collection and use of personnel data. 

• That medical information not be 
fed into ISA. 

The conditions presented in the 
temporary agreement of February 
1980 were almost exactly opposite 
those sought by the Works Council: 

• No restriction to the original goal; 
rather, the company would have free 
reign to use ISA as it wished. 

• The council would not be consulted 
for agreement [Mitbestimming]', ra- 
ther it would merely be "instructed 
and informed," even if the system 
was changed and the £imount and type 
of information gathered was ex- 

The final agreement, settled on in 
early summer of 1980, scarcely dif- 
fered from this temporary agreement. 
On July 1, 1980, the trial run of ISA 
was started again. 

So in the end, did the opposition 
come to nothing? No, because it was 
the first conflict over the introduction 
of PIS into a large workplace. It 
showed the possibility of the social 
privacy debate [Datenschutz], previ- 
ously led by liberals and technical 
specialists, being taken up by workers 
and unions, thereby changing its 
nature. The company pushed ISA to 
the limit because it knew the workers 
would be unwilling to go out on strike 
against an unknown quantity. How- 
ever, when ISA's effects do become 
perceptible and as PSI is implemen- 
ted, more workers will be willing to 
take strong counter- actions. The ban- 
ding together of autonomous workers 
groups, technical specialists and me- 
dia workers was an importemt, promi- 
sing move towards more effective 
action in the future. 

Worse To Come 

Further developments in control 
technology contribute to the potential 
for explosive conflicts: 

Automated Monitoring of Move- 
ment: Machine-readable identity 
cards can function like keys. These 

Don't PIS on Me! 


cards can be used to control workers' 
access to each area of the worksite. 
Another PIS routine can draw a dia- 
gram of the workers' movements... 
Daimler-Benz is installing such a 
system at its computer center. [Bank 
of America, Pacific Telephone, Wells 
Fargo, and many other large San 
Francisco companies have similau* 
systems in place in their data cen- 

Automated Cafeterias: on paying 
the check, the worker sticks the iden- 
tity card into the cash register, a clerk 
registers the control numbers for the 
food and drinks, the system calculates 
the total and issues a cafeteria spend- 
ing record, and the aimount of the 
meal is automatically deducted from 
the next paycheck. 

With no problem, a diet report can 
be issued on the employee — very 
interesting for personnel specialists, 
company doctors and insurance com- 

Most workers like to eat with their 
friends and acquaintances. A PIS 
computer routine can take the time 
registered on checks Eind calculate the 
order of entry into the cafeteria. This 
routine is known as KOMSART (Com- 
munication Structure Data — Em- 
ployees) — in plain words: How often 
does who talk with whom? 

Automatic Work Monitoring: work- 
places are being equipped with ma- 
chines that monitor work output. 
Time-study men and fat managers are 
a thing of the past: surveillance is 
continuous and approaches the thou- 
sandth of a minute in precision. 

The Role of the Unions 

Quietly, one step at a time, a new 
kind of authoritarian control is being 
imposed on workers and on society at 
large. Complicit in this are the West 
German unions and their leaders, who 
like to be thought of as 'statesmgin- 
like'. Union policy on social privacy is 
snagged on distinguishing between 
'normal' and 'abusive' uses of per- 
sonnel data. 

The 'normal' use of personnel data 
is permitted by law. This is the 
ordinary business use of information 
on the employee under the accepted 
conditions of wage labor: information 
on the employees, their activities, 
their wages, the concrete products of 
their work. 

The 'normal' use of personnel 
information is distinguished from 'a- 
buse' — such as the unauthorized 
transmission of data to a third party. 
This is the sort of activity that the law 
attempts to hinder, but usually in the 
interest of private enterprise, and 


Processed World 

rarely in the interest of the employee. 

The line between 'normal' and 
'abusive' use is fluid and in practice 
arbitrary. It fluctuates with changes 
in political conditions. In the Nazi 
period, information would be kept on 
whether someone was an alien wor- 
ker, a prison or concentration camp 
detainee, 'Aryan' or 'non- Aryan' — 
normal data under the specific wage- 
labor conditions of that period, data 
the employers kept without any 

Instead of such brutal distinctions, 
today's firm uses far subtler data. Of 
course information will be collected 
on whether a worker is German, 
Turkish, or Yugoslavian. Just as 
"naturally," firms have a strong 
interest in their employees' state of 
health (as the events at Daimler-Benz 
prove). Such information is relevant 
given the actual conditions of wage- 
labor in our time. 

All data records commonly isolate 
and extract discrete characteristics 
from the personal and social life of the 
'recorded' individual. The fact that a 
record may contain only a limited 
number of characteristics — e.g. the 
information needed for calculation 
and transfer of wages — may make it 
appear to be a minor problem. But data 
is being stored by social service 
administration, personnel information 
systems, and many other organiza- 
tions. With the capability of rapid, 
flexible analysis and comparison of 
data elements, information proces- 
sing can in principle draw new pic- 
tures of people or things. These 
so-called 'data shadows' are shaped 
more by the interests of the e valuator 
than by those of the evaluatee. This 
splintering of social and personal life 
into data elements and their recon- 
figuration for alien purposes parallels 
current industrial dissection and re- 
structuring of the labor process. This 
restructuring is also generally ac- 
cepted as normal and inevitable. 

More and more, published state- 
ments by top union leaders maintain 

that companies should only use per- 
sonnel data in the course of the 
normal practice of work. But what is 
the normal practice of work except 

The DGB [national industrial trade 
union federation of W. Germany] has 
published a Social Privacy Manual 
which documents a series of abuses of 
personnel information by companies: 
• A program allows the computer to 
print out a list of areas in which the 
women over 35 who work for the 
company most commonly live. The 
business discontinues its commuter 
bus service to these areas. The result: 

Don't PIS on Me! 


most of the women quit "voluntarily" 
because they don't have cars and 
c£m't switch to the poorly-planned 
public transit system. In this way, the 
firm protects itself from anti-dismis- 
sal laws and gains the "co-participa- 
tion" of the Works Council. 

• Blacklists, naming workers who 
have made themselves unpopular with 
their employers by being active either 
in the union or in other kinds of 
opposition, are transmitted from com- 
pany to company via computer. The 
employee, until now relatively pro- 
tected by the practical difficulties of 
doing this, has been caught in the 
omnipresent net of data processing. 

• Candidates for election to Works 
Councils, one of the most democratic 
institutions in West Germany, have 
for some time been watched by the 
secret police. This surveillance has 
been entrusted to commissioners who 
in the "Great German Period" before 
1945 worked at deporting and mur- 
dering millions of people from all over 
Europe, including many unionists. 
How often have these officials 
dreamed of how much more effective 
they would have been for the Third 
Reich, if only they had had the new 
technology at their disposal? 

The DGB has offered ideas for prac- 
tical measures, too; for example, the 
appointment of privacy commission- 
ers for individual companies, over 
which the Works Council would have 
veto rights. But the central point is 
still ignored — that is, that the excep- 
tional ability of the new control 
systems to strengthen surveillance 
2md manipulation stems from the 
present organization of work itself. 

The unions try to defend "social 
privacy" against abuses from the new 
technology, but without acknowledg- 
ing that the domination of work and 
workers by capital will always lead to 
such abuses. In other words, the 
union position refuses to recognize 
that relatively minor abuses lie on the 
foundations of a larger, more funda- 
mental abuse. The unions try to 

doctor 'data shadows' and leave the 
real patient and her condition out of 

Beyond Good Behavior 

The unions are caught in their usual 
morass. They appeal to the state and 
eschew doing anj^thing themselves. 
They refuse to initiate learning pro- 
cesses for the masses of employees 
and avoid aggressive public discus- 
sion on the problem of social privacy. 
Most importeint, they renounce auto- 
nomous action by the workers them- 
selves. In their struggle against in- 
creased surveillance £ind control by 
the state, the DGB and the indepen- 
dent unions cripple themselves by 
'behaving.' Only a few independent 
unions have managed to protest the 
monitoring of candidates to the Works 
Council by the secret police. 

The establishing of "new techno- 
logy "-based megms of control and 
surveillance calls for new, enlight- 
ened responses by the unions. In that 
regard, political discussions should 
posit that the unions' prevailing trust 
in the State is nsiive. A different 

at the control point 

he calls 
checklist at hand 

find m\^ dreams 
lined up 
in these books 
stories from Time 

proceed carefully 


longing grief hate 

for the data bank 

everi; distortion 

corrupts the vision 

of mi; unstoppable 

future ^ 

by Gerd Unmack (translated from 
German by Mark Leger) A 


Processed World 

attitude must be developed, in which 
the workers themselves must defend 
and win back their democratic right to 
organize and their right to strike. 

It is also absolutely necessary to 
build a 'second flank' of technical 
specialists to do research on behalf of 
workers, to have discussions on the 
significant dangers of these new 
developments, and to help mobilize 
workers in defense of their rights oX 
work and in the 'political' arena. It is 
especially necessary to demonstrate 
the connection between political and 
workplace repression and the new 
technology. [A group representing a 
'second flank' of the sort mentioned 
here is Forbidt, Eimsbuttelerstrasse 
18; 2000 Hamburg 50; W. Germany.] 

Translator 's Conclusion 

From these early conflicts and 
analyses, awareness of the dangers of 
PIS systems has grown. David Noble, 
in an article in democracy magazine, 
outlines some of the high points of the 
subsequent history: 

"The resistance to technology from 
below has forced the union official- 
dom to adopt an unprecedented 
stance of opposition to PIS. In 1980, 
the Public Services Union demanded 
that PIS systems be prohibited; in 
1981, H.O. Vetter, former DGB pre- 
sident, acknowledged that 'we must 
not admit everything that is tech- 
nologically possible.' Finally, in 1982, 
the Federal Congress of the DGB in 
Berlin, in a dramatic turn-around for 
this progressivist union, issued Reso- 
lution #7 demanding that PIS systems 
be forbidden by the state. But wor- 
kers throughout Germany understand 
all too well that such union declar- 
ations, while importgmt and indeed 
historic, will not in themselves suf- 
fice... Thus, the rank-and-file has 
begun to invent its own strategies. At 
the printing firm Bauer in Hamburg, 
for example workers have refused to 
distribute or sign information cards 
required by the company to build up 
its PIS database. (They realize, how- 

ever, that such refusal is itself data 
that will find its way into the manage- 
ment machinery.) On the docks in 
Hamburg, workers have filed a class 
action suit against the company to try 
to get an injunction on the installation 
of a PIS. While realizing that this is 
only the beginning, the orgemizers of 
this action are using it to raise 
consciousness about the need to resist 
the technology (eight hundred wor- 
kers signed the suit) and to question 
both the liberal smd Marxist myths of 
salvation through technological 'pro- 
gress.' "t 

Another thing that undercuts the 
credibility of union leadership is their 
own use of PIS systems. Using com- 
pany databases, unions confirm wage 
rates of their members to make sure 
that they 're not 'cheating. ' Labor 
lawyers have also used these systems 
for research. In fact, Volkswagen 
even provided the Works Council with 
a terminal for their own use and on 
several occasions, IG Metall actively 
cooperated with the installation of 
PIS's. Union-owned companies have 
even installed their own PIS systems. 
Disgruntled workers are stuck with 
the usual predicament of fighting 
their 'official representatives' along 
with the company. 

In America, we don't have quite the 
same fresh memory of totalitarianism 
that the Germans do. But totalitar- 
ianism can be subtle as well as un- 
abashed. With its increased speed 
and accuracy of analysis and ability to 
efficiently compare and share infor- 
mation among employers, govern- 
ment agencies, and schools, the new 
technology could become the most 
insidious, hateful dictator the world 
has yet known. Now is the time to take 
steps, both small and large, on behalf 
of our freedom. 

— Translated, compiled, and edited 
by Mark Leger, with editing help from 
Lucius Cabins & Louis Michaelson 
t David Noble, "Present Tense Tech- 
nology: Part 3," democracy (Vol. 3, 
#4) pg. 83. 

Don't PIS on Me! 





1. Wash thoroughly. Rinse 
eyes, ears and nose with sterile 
water. Scrub body with wire 
brush or steel wool. 

4. Destroy contaminated pets 
and dispose of safely (six inches 
of concrete on all sides). 

7. Use a condom for intimate 
contact with an uncontaminat- 
ed other. 

2. Take vitamin C; eat fresh 
fruits; save your apricot pits. 

5. Avoid releasing dioxin mol- 
ecules into the air. Do not burn 
your home or other possessions. 

8. Purchase family burial ce- 

3. Stay away from rural swim- 
ming and camping areas. Drink 
bottled water. Avoid unneces- 
sary breathing. 

6. Do not get too close to 

other people. Wear a surgical ^ 
mask and rubber gloves while 5 
at work. i 

9. Remain calm and pleasant. 
Remind everyone that chemical 
plant owners are having a nice 

Disclaimer: There is no guarantee that following any of these precautions will prevent 
slow death from cancer after dioxin contamination. If you do all of the above, you may or may 
not survive. This geographical area m^y or may not continue to be inhabited. Life on this 
planet may or may not continue to exist. But the chemical companies will continue making 
profits until the very end. Remember: WITHOUT CHEMICALS, LIFE ITSELF WOULD BE 


(The following texts are excerpted from Fundamentals, a multi-media 
performance work in collaboration with Daniel Steven Crafts.) 



But I have felt something like God 

like the God they talk about "^ 

like being inside God's around-the-world body 

Once out on the loading dock with my clipboard 

the packages were sliding into the vans 

the invoices feeding through 

ahead of schedule for once 

everything was going like a quartz crystal watch all 

smooth quiet / shiny like it does sometimes 

I felt it all come together 

the whole order and purpose of it 

Headquarters way across the country in New York 

crawling with light / a glass wasp's nest above Fifth Avenue 

and the plant down South 

with those big black presses eating themselves 

clackety clackety clackety 

and the warehouse behind me 

and all the other offices and plants 

and warehouses all jammed with product waiting 

to go out 

Right then all of it dissolved into pure information 

this shining colorless message moving round the world 

I felt it slide through the purchase orders 

I felt it clack through the adding machines 

I felt it flash through the key entry 

I felt it zap through the invoices in my hand 

and all that just one little nerve-signal 

in God's around-the-world body 

money / blinking into product / into more money 

all of us making it grow / shining and colorless 

enormous / and grow more / forever and ever 

that must be what we're supposed to be doing 

making God grow 



He's all wrong about Hell 

Hell would be the warehouse on a cold wet afternoon 

the shift loading as usual / vans in and out 

the phone rings in the office / the forkiifts 

whine backing up 

but nobody says a word / nobody says a goddann word 

everybody goes nonstop / flat out / right on the money 

and all total strangers 

No Charlie to piss blue about the schedules 

no Beth to snap wise-ass like her gum 

no Julio to smoke up the men's room / laughing 

like a gone vertical hold 

no bitching and fuck jokes over machine coffee 

no baseball talk / strike talk / flashing out of the beer 

after the shift 

No after the shift 

Just two in the afternoon / it's raining 

and I can see my breath out on the dock 

vans in / vans out / the phone always ringing 

Nothing but that / forever 


;.-.; Vegeta 


. :'':^: 


• ■ :•':•"•'• 









RpcpoMQP X 

Figure 5 Earth features in two 

Himctnc:innP)l nhc:cir\/P>tinn Qnarf^ 




Wednesday — 2:12 

A corporate information center at 
Bank of America. The attempt is to 
control: the decor is plush, it im- 
presses and stimulates production; 
the light is fluorescent, it illuminates 
evenly and flatly; the air is filtered, it 
whooshes out of ducts; the people are 
paid and supervised, they work. 

Lupe's stomach growls. She is 
hungry. Susan, her boss, isn't back to 
reheve her for lunch. Lupe never has 
a regular lunch break. Besides the 
discomfort of working on an empty 
stomach, she can never make plans to 
eat with friends. 

Mike stops by her desk. "You 
haven't had lunch yet, have you?" 

"No. I called Martha at Schmidt & 
Hein. That luncheon thing that Susein 
went to was over at one. The bitch is 
probably out shopping with Irene for 
another dress to cover her ugly 

"That's awful. How can..." 

Lupe raises her eyebrows — office 
code for 'the boss is coming.' 

Mike shuts up. "Well, I gotta go 
pay some bills." 

Lupe grabs her coat and bag lunch. 

"I'm oui of here!" 

Mike is outraged. He knows that 
it's illegal to delay lunch breaks that 
long. He looks up the law, photo- 
copies it, and later that afternoon 
shows it to Lupe. 

"I know it's illegal." 

"I would say something." 

"I know. I'm tired of this." 

Thursday — 1:56 

Susan finally comes back from 
lunch. Instead of as far away from the 
building as possible, Lupe goes to the 
breakroom to eat her lunch. She 
finishes quickly £ind uses the type- 
writer of an absent secretary to pre- 
pare a memo. 

"Attached please find a copy of 
section 9 of the Wage and Hour Code 
as well as a copy of section 5.4 of the 
Corporate Policies Guide. Please note 

Grumbles Down Below 



Thursday — 3:15 

Susan reads the memo and imme- 
diately buzzes her boss, Irene, the 
Directing Information Network Spe- 

"Don't worry. Come to my office. 
We'll talk to Employees' Assistance 
and get their advice." 

Mike hears the bleep of the con- 
ference call 'squawk box' in Irene's 
office next door amd listens. 

Thursday — 4:46 

"Lupe, Employees' Assistance dic- 
tated a response to your memo that 
Irene is going to present to you to- 
morrow. She's going to say that Susan 
has professional obligations that fre- 
quently require her to be out of the 
office between 12 and 2 o'clock. You 
are her support staff and have to work 
around her schedule. Since you, in 
their words, 'expressed an interest in 
having the meal policy clarified,' 
they're going to offer you two choices. 
You can either go at 11 everyday, or 
you can be more flexible gmd be 
prepared to go anytime before 2." 

"Professional obligations my ass! If 
she's not out shopping, she's giggling 
over pasta salad with her girlfriends 

or fucking Tom Provost. And they're 
still breaking the law. It says that a 
worker gets at least a half hour meal 
break after completing between four 
and five hours of work. Since we start 
working at 8:15, the latest they can 
keep me is 1:15. And what do they 
have to say to the fact that everyone 
else in this department can plan their 
lunch hour except me, even though 
there are people who can stand in for 

Friday — 10:20 

"Lupe, Sam Walks at Employees' 
Assistance is an expert. How can you 
sit there and try to tell me that you 
know more about wage and hour law 
than he does?" 

"But Irene..." 

"Susan has a very busy schedule. 
Information specialists have many 
professional responsibilities. You ei- 
ther have to adjust or you'll be stuck 
with a solution that is inconvenient for 
all of us." 

Lupe cannot speak an uninterrupt- 
ed sentence. Irene is red-faced and 
shrill. She resents Lupe's "insubor- 
dinate" demands, — and she carries 



Processed World 

Tuesday — 11:23 

Lupe is out sick today. Mike walks 
past her work station. Irene is going 
through Lupe's cabinets. 

"These should have been distri- 
buted two weeks ago! My god, if Mr. 
Prushing found out that we have been 
sitting on these, he'd have a fit!" 

Wednesday — 8:21 

"Lupe, Irene went crazy when she 
found those FB regs. She found some 
other backlogged mail, too. She's 
gonna come down on you today, some 
shit about 'corrective counseling' and 

"Shit! They cut the staff, pile on 
more work, ignore me £ind my prob- 
lems, and now this! They've never 
gone through my work station before, 
why now?" 



Wednesday — 3:56 

"If at the end of this thirty day 
period, Lupe still has not improved, 
procedures will be followed to remove 
her from her current position." 

Throughout the reading, Lupe 
stares disgustedly at Irene. 

"Do you have any questions?" 

"Why are you doing this to me?" 

"Are you suggesting this is retali- 

'I'm not suggesting anything." 

"If you have £iny questions about 
the content of this document, you may 
bring them up now. Before you go, 
though, I need you to sign at the 

"I'm not signing this." 

"Your signature merely indicates 
that this discussion took place." 

"I don't sign my name to hes." 

Friday — 10:20 

A lawyer's office, a room in a reno- 
vated house in a still mostly seedy 
part of town. The walls are decorated 
with the usual professional creden- 
tials and a Nicaraguan poster de- 
picting striking workers. 

"They have improved on my lunch 
hour, but they're still erratic. They're 
watching me like a hawk — it's like 
working in a concentration camp. 
Even the other workers say they're 
getting harsher treatment." 

"Unless they actually fire you, we 
don't have a very strong case to do 
anything. My advice is that you find 
another job. Certgiin aspects of the 
law may be on your side, but they've 
got the real power in this situation." 

Monday — 9:05 

' 'That was a big help. 'Find another 
job.' The market is tight. I'm not 
going to get a good recommendation 
from this place. And the next set of 
bosses is likely to be as bad as these." 

' 'I talked to Roxanne in the archival 
center this morning. Their new boss, 
Earnest, is pitchin' to graduate Ass- 
hole Cum Laude from the Irene Frank 
School of Management. We should all 
meet and talk this stuff through. 




Can you name 
these famous 
u ^^ personalities ?r^j 

Grumbles Down Below 


Wednesday — 5:26 "Yeah, it bugs me how Earnest is 

The staff from the library and always looking over my shoulder to 
records center are sitting around a see if I'm really working. When I 
booth in a downtown gay bar. Other come to work, I work, and he knows 
similar groups of people, mostly gay 
men and straight women, are scat- 
tered around the black, silver and 
smoky pink room. None are talking 
with the intensity of the seven people 

"What gets me are the little per- 
sonal privileges that they dememd. 
Alone, they're nothing, but they add 
up. They've learned not to do some- 
thing blatant, like ask us to get coffee, 
even though some of the secretaries 
still do for the attorneys. It's the petty 
stuff — like when we're all sitting 
down, doing our work, and Earnest 
asks us to close his door because a 
private phone call has come in or 
something. I mean, he could get up 
and close it himself, but Noooo!..." 

"I hate how Irene returns files to 
me to put back in order after she's 
read them. It's not that much trouble 
to try to keep them in order as you go 
through, but she just can't be bo- 

"Yeah, Earnest does that, too. If ?* 
we were to take a file that he had 
looked at and put it back on the shelf 
*as is,' he'd get all mad the next time 
he looked at it, saying it wasn't in 
'logical order.' " 

"When I first came on, they told 
me that line 8 was my personal line. 
Irene took it away, saying she needed 
it for her own use, and I was making 
too many personal calls, anyway. So I 
use Mike's line, but if I'm on it for 
more than a minute, or if it looks like 
I'm having fun, Irene comes on and 
interrupts. But then she turns around 
and talks to her boyfriend or this or 
that other person for a half hour, hour 
at a time." 

"What about those meetings?! 
Those things are fucking tea peirties! || 
Silea says that they'll talk about cook- 
ing or dogs for hours, ain't that right 
Silea? And they get pissed at us if 
we're not working every minute." P 


Processed World 

that. Sure, I could work harder. But I 
don't wauit to go home so exhausted 
that I don't have energy to do £iny- 
thing else. And I don't need some 
asshole looking over my shoulder all 
the time!" 

"When I was hired, they told me 
I'd only be filing for six months at the 
most. By then a legal secretary job 
would be opening up and I'd get that. 
Well, it's been a year and a half, and 
the only thing that's been promoted is 
that turkey op officer who made me 
that promise." 

"Me, I don't give a fuck about 
getting ahead in this stupid corpora- 
tion. I just want to do what I have to 
do to get my paycheck and go home to 
live my own life." 

"Really! What kind of person gets 
into New Ways for Filing Papers!" 

* 'I would like it if we could plan our 
own work. Or if they stEirted training 
programs for us like the supervisors 

"Train us to do or be what? Cor- 
porate ditz queens? What good is this 
work anyway? They don't make any- 
thing anybody could really use. At 
bottom, it's about keeping track of 
some rich peoples' bank accounts or 
stock portfolios." 

"No. Silea has a point. I meem, 
you're right, but it never hurts to 
know what they're up to. And it can 
make the work more interesting." 

"Training programs are OK, but 
we gotta push for the more immediate 

"Like the least work for the most 

"I hear that!" 

"No, I mean like Lupe's situation. 
Having a lunch at 12 or 1 is basic. 
Keeping her waiting till 2 or 2:30 is 
wrong. I think we should try to deal 
with that." 

The tactic was chosen by common 
agreement. If Susan was late getting 
back from lunch, the workers would 
take turns covering the information 

center. Irene would probably forbid 
individuals from doing this. In this 
event, the individual would ask, 
"Well, when is Lupe supposed to get 
her lunch?" 

The workers would continue to 
relieve Lupe until the matter came to 
a head by Irene threatening disci- 
plinary actions against them. At this 
point, all available workers would sit 
in for Lupe. (Mike would later buy a 
bottle of sparkling cider to keep in the 
breakroom fridge for just such an 
event.) Under no circumstances 
would the workers leave the worksite 
until Irene agreed to regular lunch 
breaks with no retaliatory actions 
against insistent workers. Instead, 
they would take a sit-in, sit-down, 
keep-cool approach. 

They also decided not to let 'little 
things" pass uncontested. A file 
would remain disorganized after a 
boss had looked at it. Doors would not 
be closed at bidding. Attempts to 
interrupt telephone calls would be 
firmly rebuffed. Snoopers would be 
told to back off. Such contestations 
would by nature be spontaneous: 
everyone agreed to support each 
other as occasions Eirose. 

"But what if I ever wemt a recom- 
mendation from Irene?" 

"Would you trust her to say some- 
thing nice about you? Not me. Any- 
way, that's maybe and in the future. 
We've got problems here and now." 

"Aren't you scared?" 

"Yeah, but after a while, there's 
just so much shit you C£in take." 


The events and conversations of 
this story, except for the mechanics of 
the organizing response, are recon- 
structions of real happenings. 

— by Paxa Lourde 

End of the World's Fair 

Aren't you thrilled by your challenging; well-paid job? 
Aren't you ecstatic about your personal relationships? 
Aren't you deeply secure about our nation's leadership? 
Aren't you overjoyed with the comfort, safety, 

and friendliness of your home and neighborhood? 
Aren't you just like the happy family in the picture? 


on the other hand, 

your job would put a speed freak to sleep, 

your pay barely keeps you in instant mashed potatoes and 

cockroach repellent, 

you live in a shoebox but pay enough rent for Hearst Castle, 

you and your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend take turns 

having the headache, 

you get cold chills every time "our'' troops score another 

stunning victory, 

you think the government is being run by maniacs with cash 

registers for brains, 

Then JOIN THE CROWD at the 

End of the World's Fair 

MAY 12, 1984 

U.N. Plaza, parade to Dolores Park 

in San Francisco 

Costumes, floats, theater, music, dancing, conversations 


Dress Wildly and come and protest/celebrate whatever you want 
















In 1980, 4 out of 7 babies born to 
VDT operators at the Toronto Star 
over a 3 month period had foot, eye, 
heart and throat deformities. In 2 
years, 7 out of 13 Air Canada VDT 
operators miscarried. At the Federal 
SolicitorGeneral'soffice.notoneof 7 
pregnancies of VDT operators in 3 
years has resulted in the birth of a 
healthy, full-term baby. Four women 
had miscarriages, 2 babies had bron- 
chial ailments and one was born 
premature. At the Defense Logistics 
Agency in Atlanta, GA, 3 birth 
defects and 7 spontaneous abortions 
occurred in 1 year among 19 preg- 
nancies among Sears Roebuck VDT 
workers in Dallas, TX. These "stat- 
istical clusters" are extremely un- 
likey in the population at large. The 
US Center for Disease Control re- 
ported the chances of the Sears 
"cluster" at 6 in 10,000. 


In 1977, two New York Times copy 
editors developed cataracts after 
using VDTs for one year. US National 
Institute of Occupational Safety & 
Health confirmed that the cataracts 


Pandora Pennyroyal sent PW this 
VDT information. Being three 
months pregnant, she tried to limit 
her VDT work to 1 to 2 hours daily. . . 
and was fired. Her story has a 
"poor but happy ending. " She was 
hired at a natural foods cafe, for "a 
bare bodkin above the minimum 
wage," slinging vegetarian hash 
with "all the right people, " close to 
home. Good luck... and thanks for 
the info! 

Copy & Distribute! 

were radiation induced, but refused 
to link this to VDT use. Radiation- 
induced cataracts have occurred 
morefrequently among copy editors, 
clerical workers, air traffic control- 
lers and programmers than among 
the general population. 

and MORE 

Listlessness, headaches, muscu- 
lar tension, high stress, skin rashes, 
eyestrain, insomnia, dizziness, in- 
digestion and loss of appetite and de- 
pression are frequent complaints of 
VDT operators. 


The primary form of radiation from 
VDTs is in the extra-low frequency 
range. Studies of this type of expo- 
sure report interference with the 
growth of young animals, changes in 
blood composition in human and 
other animals, bone tumors, abnor- 
mal bone healing, and nervous 
system dysfunction. In addition to 
the low frequencies, VDTs emit radio 
frequencies, infra-red, ultra-violet 
and soft x-ray radiation. It is known 
that the eyes, reproductive organs 
and brain absorb radio frequency 
waves more quickly than other parts 
of the body. 


Government has set ' 'safe levels" 
of radiation exposure from VDTs 
based on the risk of fatal radiation- 
induced cancer. In other words, 
adverse health effects which are not 
fatal are a socially acceptable cost of 
this technology. The occupational 
exposure standard in the Soviet 
Union is 100 times lower than In the 

The Ugly Truth About VDTs 


Somesuggestions for reducing the 
risk to health: 

1.Try to get metal shielding 
around the cabinet, especially if the 
cabinet is plastic. They cost your 
employer approximately $20-$30 per 
shield, and they significantly reduce 
the leakage of low-frequency radia- 

2. Insist on regular rest breaks, 
and try to set a maximum operating 
time per shift, filling in the rest of the 
shift with more varied work. Make 
sure you take your breaks away from 
the terminal. Look away from your 
screen every half hourand focus else- 
where. Get up and walk around, to 
the restroom or wherever, every hour 
or so. 

3. Make sure your machines are 
tested regularly for radiation leaks. 
Different models and different units 
vary greatly in the amount of emis- 
sions they produce. 

4. Report any health effects, such 
as skin rashes, vision problems, or 
others mentioned above, immedi- 

5. Pregnant women should try for 
reassignment during pregnancy. 

6. If you have company-provided 
insurance, make sure it covers an- 
nual ophthalmologlcal exams. 
Have a test before you begin your 

VDT work so you can document any 
changes which develop. A "slitlamp 
biomicroscopy" is the test used for 

7. Try to get a machine with a 
detachable keyboard. Exposure de- 
creases exponentially for every inch 
of distance you put between yourself 
and the machine. Varying the posi- 
tion of the keyboard also makes work 
easier on the wrists. Get the best 
lighting for minimum glare, and 
insist on a comfortable chair. 

8. Avoid VDT jobs in large rooms 
with many terminals, such as at 
newspapers. Thefewer VDTs around 
you, the lower the exposure you re- 

9. Organize with co-workers to 
resist productivity monitoring by 
keystrokes per hour, which is made 
possible by this technology. 

10. Successful suits have been 
brought against employers by VDT 
operators, but accurate records of 
machine model numbers and time 
spent on them, as well as any 
symptoms you notice, greatly in- 
crease your chances of winning a 
court case, should that become ne- 

Write Processed World for other 
sources of information. 



Processed World, 55 Sutter St. ^829, San Frar^cisco, CA 94104 USA 


5^j sMiii mm^ w^m. ^ ^^< 
^^^s ss^g^ jg^sNiP >«^i s««i ^m^ m^m ^^^. ^m^ wmm wmm. &^m 

In 1979, and then again on a larger 
scale in 1981, government workers in 
Englsind went on strike for higher 
wages. Generally referred to as ''civil 
serv2ints" strikes, only a small per- 
centage of government employees ac- 
tually stopped working. These strikes 
were among the first significant col- 
lective actions by computer workers. 
In the 1981 strike, 3600 computer 
workers withheld their labor, striking 
on behalf of the half-million British 
government workers. 

The '79 strike differed from the '81 
strike in that the earlier one was 
against a Labour government sup- 
ported by the TUC (the British union 
confederation — which was closely 
linked with Labour in trying to impose 
a "social contract" with a low ceiUng 
for wage increases) and the latter one 
was against a Tory government ap- 
parently opposed by the unions. 
Therefore, the 1979 strikes were more 
often wildcats, whereas the 1981 civil 
servant strike was a well-organized 
union affair. Nevertheless, in both 
cases, the unions acted as good auxil- 
iaries of the government (and of capi- 

To understand the situation in 
England (where computer staff is 
often unionized) we have to consider 

two crucial relationships: 

1) the unions' attempt to include 
computer staff in their general strat- 
egy, i.e. to have tighter control over a 
too-autonomous rank and file; 

2) the capitaUsts' attempt (via the 
government) to draw up pleins to re- 
duce or eliminate the impact of 
possible industrial actions. 

In 1978, prior to the actual com- 
puter staff strikes, a Labour govern- 
ment report made recommendations 
to counter this eventuality. This re- 

• underlined that "there is a pos- 
sible threat that our own key com- 
puter operating staff could easily 
cause disruption disproportionate to 
their relatively small number, by 
withdrawing their labor." 

• investigated standby arrange- 
ments in the case of industrial acMon 
but revealed that "there are some 
circumstances in which effective al- 
ternative arrangements are impos- 

• noted that computers could be 
"attractive targets for selected in- 
dustrial actions in furtherance of a 
national dispute." 

• emphasized the need for "good 
industrial relations in this field." 

Computer Strikes in England 


A series of local and very limited 
but nevertheless powerful wildcat 
actions began to disrupt computer 
work. The government and unions 
realized that computerization had 
vastly increased the potential for 
disruption by autonomous action. 
Both the government and the unions 
recognized the disruptive power of a 
computer strike. Each attempted to 
keep control over the actions of the 
computer workers in order to exploit 
their power. The government hoped 
the computer workers would help 
guarantee stability, while the unions 
hoped they could be used to pressure 
the government to concede to union 

In a strike, the computer workers 
could be most effective if they or- 
ganized autonomously, even if part of 
a nationwide strike. The computer 
workers could exert more pressure on 
the government if they were acting 
independently of the unions, and if 

their action is recognized and sup- 
ported by other workers who then 
refuse to handle work ordinarily per- 
formed by the strikers. 

Such a situation happened in early 
1979 during the "winter of discon- 
tent," when a big wave of strikes 
pulled down a Labour government (to 
keep the balance, five years earlier 
another wave of strikes pulled down a 
Conservative government). The 1979 
local computer strikes appeared in 
part as a rehearsal for the 1981 
strikes, but were less "organized" by 
the unions and not centralized, so 
more autonomous. They involved 
computer staff in the Armed Forces, 
the Customs, tax collection, the For- 
eign Office, Department of Environ- 
ment, etc. The strike even hit the 
Polaris nuclear base on the Clyde and 
blocked the monitoring of Soviet spy 
sateUites and communications. AH 
naval operations were affected be- 
cause all the suppHes, including fuel, 


Processed World 

torpedos and missiles were com- 
puterized; tugboat use and health 
supervision were affected. Some sec- 
tors outside the government were also 
affected. A short stoppage by the 
computer staff in the Midland Bank 
caused a mess that took three days to 
clear (Midland owns Crocker Bank of 

The '79 strike revealed the danger 
for the system of relying on a small 
number of workers with access to 
complicated machines and private or 
secret data. As the Financial Times 
added (3/21/81): "Computer staff... 
tend to be less influenced (than other 
gov't, workers) by the paternalism" 
of the branches where they work. 

The number of computers had 
grown rapidly throughout the 70's. 
During the '81 strike the government 
gave a full report of the extent of 
centralized computer use. More than 
300 mainframes were used to collect 
taxes, pay benefits and to distribute 

and supply services, mainly related to 
defense, and to the recording and 
manipulation of top secret informa- 
tion for the police and the milit2iry. 

One important sector hit by the '81 
strike was the tax department. The 
general aim of the unions (and cer- 
tainly a strategy for the Labour Pgirty 
as well) was to force the government 
to borrow more money, thereby 
wrecking its monetary policy. It was 
said that between Va £ind ¥2 of the 
money normally collected did not go 
to the state during the 21 weeks of 
selective strikes. It is nevertheless 
difficult to know the effect of the 
strike in this regard because the state 
has ways to get around such prob- 

The computer workers strike raised 
the prospect of other vital industries 
being disrupted by similar actions: 
the post office (in '79 a long strike 
halted all telephone billings in Eng- 
land for several months and it took 

Computer Strikes in England 


six months to clear the backlog), the 
banks (which use primarily one cen- 
tral computer to clear the checks), the 
gas utility, and so on. 

Nine unions, all part of the TUC, 
were involved in the '81 strike. The 
size of the unions ranged from 
200,000 to 8000 members and in- 
cluded both professional and non- 
professional workers' unions. The 
strike was strongly pushed by the 
workers. This led to a unique or- 
ganization, very bureaucratic on one 
hand, autonomous on the other — 
what could be called a strictly con- 
trolled autonomy. 

As the Financial Times wrote on 
3/30/81: "Bureaucracy is virtually 
defined by the Civil Service — so it is 
hardly surprising that when civil 
servants go on strike the campaign of 
industrial action should be plsmned 
and organized in a highly methodical, 
bureaucratic manner." This way of 
thinking was indispensable to the 
organization because its aim was to 
manipulate people performing func- 
tions in a very hierarchical capitalist 
system. What bosses and unions have 
in common is the need to have a say 
everywhere and at every moment — 
and the power to impose it. 

On the other hand, this organiza- 
tion answered the need of rank and 
file workers, scattered all over Eng- 
land, for coordination, links, and dis- 
patching. It was a kind of central unit 
for the elaboration of a common stra- 
tegy. As the unions were offering 
such a central unit, all the workers 
involved in the strike used it and 
didn't have to build one of their own. 
Thus, the situation appezired to be 
fully under union domination. This is 
always how things are these days: 
workers can't ignore the unions, and 
so must cope with them. The essential 
question in any strike is in the dia- 
lectic between the union interests and 
the workers' interests — in other 
words, how the strikers use the union- 
created orgemization in their own 

In the 1981 strike, the nine unions 
created a national Council of Civil 
Service Unions (CCSU) composed of 
top officials of each union. But the 
operational daily center was a Pay 
Campaign Committee (PCC) made up 
of official deputies which met every 
morning to review action and discuss 
fresh proposals from the local com- 
mittees. This PCC had subcommittees 
in the main sectors of the strike 
(revenue collection, ports and air- 
ports, defense, communications, etc.) 
and was linked with 41 local coordi- 
nating committees through a Central 
Coordination Room operating in Lon- 
don ten hours a day. The local coor- 
dinating committees were set in com- 
puter centers emd were supposed to 
carry out the strategy laid down by 
the CCSU. 

What was this strategy? For the 
unions, the choice was between a 
rather diluted and ineffective civil 
servants' strike of indefinite duration 
£md selective effective strikes in lim- 
ited vital sectors. These sectors were 
mainly the computer centers all over 
the country. 

For the unions, the selective strike 
appeared to be the most sensible 
choice. In reality it was not. The 
unions were reluctemt to display their 
own weakness, and they didn't want 
to risk widespread strike action that 
may have been difficult to control. 
Moreover, they didn't have the funds 
to pay strike benefits to all the strikers 
in case of a general strike. Selective, 
very limited strikes enabled the 
unions to maintain control of the 
strike: the non-strikers appeared to 
support the strikers, and this soli- 
darity was much touted. 

But the real solidarity in action was 
broken from the beginning. Few 
actual strikers were involved in the 
day-to-day decisions and implemen- 
tation of the plans and leadership of 
the strike. The most "dangerous" 
workers, the computer staff, were 
under tight control. As representa- 
tives of the striking civil servants, the 


Processed World 

unions saddled them with a kind of 
'moral liability.' With such a limited 
number of strikers, even militant 
ones, it was easier to bring autonomy 
to a standstill. At the end, after 
months of actions, even the most mili- 
tant were fed up. This benefitted both 
the unions £ind the management. Fed 
up workers are less dangerous than 
confident workers. 

In the organization of the strike, the 
unions kept the militancy of the 
computer staff firmly in their own 
hands. The 41 local coordinating 
committees, because of their local 
involvement, could have become 
some kind of autonomous bodies. But 
because they were rigidly structured 
by the union, the local committees 
kept an eye on the only real remk-and- 
file organ: the selective strike com- 

The computer workers did not rely 
that much on the unions and their 
organization of the strike, even if they 
seemed to follow them. In defiance of 
the unions, they sent delegates of the 
selective strike committees all over 
the country to meet other strikers so 
as to be fully informed of their actions 
and ideas. At some locations, militant 
selective strike committees were able 
to stop all live work, all program 
testing, and sometimes to prevent gmy 
goods from entering computer 
centers . 

Such evidence of autonomous wor- 
ker activity was not visible in the 
organized forms of the strike. The 
unity of the strike did not extend to all 
levels of the union organization. (For 
instance, the most important decision 
— to use selective strikes instead of 
an all-out strike — was taken by the 
unions' leadership.) Such real unity 
as prevailed was provided by pickets 
committees, local strike committees, 
or assemblies where they existed. 
These took collective votes on a lot of 
practical problems, breaking the divi- 
sions brought about by the unions' 
formal organization. 

During the strike, a journalist wrote 

that * 'the dispute has changed forever 
the nature of the Civil Service." He 
was wrong. The large-scale intrusion 
of computers into formerly protected 
sectors was the crucial issue. This 
computerization affected British wor- 
kers' attitudes in general and those in 
government jobs in particular. The 
dispute was only the mginifestation of 
this change — even if it was a 
revelation for the workers them- 
selves. Though previously they had 
never thought of going on strike, they 
found it a "normal" thing from the 
moment they were out. The computer 
strike, in 1981 as in 1979, spread into 
a wide range of sectors where, as the 
same journalist sadd, "such action 
was considered unthinkable." This 
was another factor which concerned 
the government during the computer 

Nevertheless, manifestations of au- 
tonomy stayed at such a rudimentary 
level that their effect, repressed by 
the union apparatus, faded away with 
time. Meanwhile the government had 
the opportunity (precisely because of 
this static strike) to build counter- 
attacks. The tax sector provides a 
good example. The two Revenue com- 
puters were halted by a selective 
strike; the InlEmd Revenue (British 
IRS) attempted to circumvent the 
strike by using bemks to collect t£ix 
payments. Eight clearing-house 
banks were asked to do the work, but 
computer and clerical staff of these 
banks threatened to refuse it. The 
Inland Revenue evaded the blackmail 
threat by getting the big non-union- 
ized banks (particul£irly the U.S. 
banks) to handle the payments. 

In the end the strike was lost. On 
August 1, 1981, a narrow majority 
agreed to resume work with 7.5% 
wage increases instead of the 15% 
demanded, a very slight improvement 
over the initial offer. More important 
is what the strike revealed to the 
strikers themselves — their power of 
disruption in a highly centralized 
state and what they might dare to do 

Computer Strikes in England 


in their own interest. 

This is also the important lesson 
that management has tried to grasp. 
It recognizes the need to decentralize 
administration in an increasinly com- 
puter-oriented society. Capitalist 
planners see some hope in this direc- 
tion with the advent of micropro- 
cessor-based equipment in ordinary 
offices. They think it will, in the long 
term, reduce the necessity of cen- 
tralized computer installations. Capi- 
talism always tries to implement new 
techniques so as to eliminate the re- 
sistemces developed through the use 
of previous methods. For now, how- 
ever, investments are tied to the 
present centralized systems and it 
may be some time before the new 
techniques are fully in place. 

The British government just agreed 
to a big order of 70 large computers. 

3000 microcomputers, and 30,000 
computer terminals to store and man- 
age all the work concerning social 
benefits all over England (sickness, 
unemployment, pensions, disabled, 
child benefits). This increased com- 
puterization will expand state control 
over almost all the population. But it 
will also increase the power of the 
computer workers — not only because 
of the centralization but because of 
the possible use of the terminals for 
unforeseen communications. On the 
other hand, even if the implemen- 
tation of microcomputers succeeds in 
eliminating present computer wor- 
kers' position of power, new possi- 
bilities of struggle will eventually 

— by Henri Simon 


. ^ ) ^\^ i^K f^^n^ "Sl^im 14^. 


. . . "Are you alienated," he asked his friend. 

"Of course," his friend replied. "And cut off from nny real self, and afraid 
of being subsumed by technology, and uncertain of the existence of a 
Supreme Being, and horrified by the excesses of modern culture and its 
vain motivations, sadly uncertain that human beings are essentially good 
(deep down), and routinely exist in a state of shocked absurd numbness." 

"I see," he said. 

"What about you?" 

"I'm just like you; but since I'm addicted to alcohol, and am sexually 
obsessed, I don't feel it." 

"That's reasonable," he said. 

by Ron De La Houssaye 




Processed World 




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A Black slave once said to a 
traveler "the monkey is a very intel- 
ligent animal, and could talk if it 
wanted to; if it does not, that is 
because it does not want to be forced 
to work. " 

Camillo Berneri, "The Problem of 
Work," in Why Work? 

Why Work?, published by Freedom 
Press, 84B Whitechapel High St., 
London El. Available through Bound 
Together Books, 1369 Haight St., SF, 
CA 94117, $4.50 

In "developed" nations everybody 
who isn't dependent on a waged 
worker or independently wealthy is 
either working, looking for work, or 
searching for a way to survive without 
working. Perhaps because work is 
such a given, surprisingly few people 
have written about work per se, and 
even fewer have asked the question 
"why work?". In less industrialized/ 
automated countries where half or 
more of the populaton is directly 
involved with food production, the 
answer is obvious — one works to 
survive. But in developed nations like 
the U.S. where only 3% of the popu- 
lation works on the land, and the 
number of workers in other types of 
production is dwindling, arguments 
for the leisure society and some re- 
distribution of wealth to the so-called 
3rd World are more compelling. Fi- 

nally a book has come out of Great 
Britain which looks at the occasionally 
useful but more often useless or 
harmful work which exists every- 
where (the 3rd World has its share of 
bureaucracies, too) and does not 
lamely appeal for full employment 
while workers are increasingly being 
displaced by machines. Rather, it 
asks what work should continue to be 
done and how it can be arranged so 
that all share its benefits and have 
free time to use as they choose. 

Why Work? is a collection of 
essays, edited by Vernon Richards, 
that explores the problems and plea- 
sures of work, and offers ideas on alter- 
natives and futures. A series of 
drawings by Clifford Harper, al- 
though somewhat stiff, use some 
charming details to illustrate what 
many anarchists believe would be the 
ideal organization of work in a post- 
industrial society. Interspersed are 
newspaper clippings and short arti- 
cles, which amusingly illustrate some 
individual's attitudes towards work 
and their ways of coping with it. The 
book concludes with a series of (rather 
redundant) articles by Vernon Ri- 
chards, originally published in the 
anarchist journal Freedom which ar- 
gue for redistribution of wealth and 
work. On the whole the book is well 
rounded, thought provoking and high- 
ly recommended. 

Introductory essays by Bertrand 

\Nh\/ Work: 


Russell and William Morris, original- 
ly published in 1932 and 1885 res- 
pectively, are both well-crafted class- 
based analyses of the work ethic and 
the organization of work. Russell 
succinctly defines work as being of 
two kinds, "first, altering the position 
of matter at or near the earth's 
surface relatively to other such mat- 
ter; second, telling other people to do 
so." Morris notes that there are three 
classes of people in "civilized 
states": "a class which does not even 
pretend to work, a class which pre- 
tends to work but which produces 
nothing, and a class which works, but 
is compelled by the other two classes 

to do work which is often unproduc- 

Originally the idle rich promulgated 
the gospel of the nobility of labor to 
ensure willing workers and it even- 
tually spread to the working class it- 
self. This ethic persists despite tech- 
nological developments which make it 
possible for everyone to work less -and 
live more. Bertrand Russell points out 
that during WWI a fraction of the 
population was able to meet the basic 
needs of the millions of others who 
were shooting at each other or manu- 
facturing arms. Nonetheless, society 
continues to overwork many of its 
members, often in the production of 



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Processed World 

goods that nobody really wants or in 
the so-called "service" sectors of 
advertising, billing and collecting for 
these useless goods, while others are 
totally unemployed and without in- 
come. Russell calls for everybody to 
work, say, 4 hours a day £ind en- 
courages the development of non- 
passive leisure. Morris also favors the 
redistribution of work, but concen- 
trates on the need to make work itself 
a pleasure. Morris includes pleasant 
surroundings, variety of tasks, control 
over the work processes, and pride in 
one's results as some of the factors 

chosen and self-directed? 

Camillo Berneri in "The Problem of 
Work" notes that for artists, scien- 
tists and a few other lucky indivi- 
duals, "their work brings them such 
joy as to keep them from feeling 
weary." However, for the vast major- 
ity of people, work is exhausting, 
chiefly because of boredom. And the 
boredom is all the more excruciating 
in jobs, like most office work, that are 
repetitive and uninteresting and yet 
require concentration. Berneri con- 
cludes that for work to be pleasurable, 
"the duration of work must be pro- 



leading to pleasure in work. 

There is a curious tendency nowa- 
days to see work either as an absolute 
horror, stemming from Eve's Garden 
party and our fall from grace into 
eternal servitude, or to elevate work 
as our way to salvation, the way we 
can most fully realize our potentials. 
Often, the two extremes are held by 
the same person. When "work" is 
broadly defined it lends itself to these 
dichotomies. By "work" does one 
mean the slavery to machines and 
bosses inherent in most manufactu- 
ring and office jobs, or a project freely 

portional to the effort involved" (in- 
cluding the effort to overcome bore- 
dom) and "everyone must be free to 
follow that productive capacity to 
which they feel most attracted." 
While an astronomer may work all 
night with pleasure, caught up in the 
excitement of a discovery, a book- 
keeper may find the job intolerable 
after a few hours of juggling figures. 
It is Berneri 's second point which 
gets a lot of people jumping up and 
down and pointing fingers at "anar- 
chist idealists." If work is freely 
chosen, who will clean the toilets? To 

Why Work? 


leave the toilets dirty for a minute, 
some of the work which people would 
probably not choose to do could just 
as easily be left undone. For example, 
if everyone at the Bank of America 
decided they couldn't care less about 
just how much money Mexico owes 
American banks eind quit tracking the 
endless permutations of capital on 
computers, society as a whole would 
be none the worse. Likewise, the 
people who currently make shoddy or 
useless goods could refuse to continue 
until there was some point to their 
labor and some hope of pride in their 

Berneri foresees problems in a 
transition to a society where work is 
freely chosen. He quotes Luigi Fabbri 
on "The Problem of Free Work" who 
says that "one of the dangers of the 
revolution will actually be the loathing 
for work which it will inherit from the 
society of today." While work may 
become lighter and less dangerous 
when workers are able to organize it 
for themselves, there will still be a 
need for work discipline £md there will 
probably be some who choose not to 
work. Berneri believes that forcing 
people to work spells the end to a free 
society, and there should be "no 
compulsion to work, but no duty 
towards those who do not wemt to 

In Tony Gibson's article "Who Will 
Do The Dirty Work?" we get back to 
the question of dirty toilets. Gibson 
claims that "such things as garbage 
collection, sewage disposal, rag pick- 
ing, furnace stoking, etc. are un- 
pleasant operations in contemporary 
society only because the men em- 
ployed in them have not the power to 
alter the conditions of their work." 
With scientific research zmd technical 
skills these occupations could actually 
become pleasurable. Or could they? I 
think Mr. Gibson is overly optimistic 
on this point, and even a free society 
does not change the fact that some 
work is inherently unpleasant. In my 
Utopia, work which is necessary but 

no fun would be divided between 
everyone so that no one has to do it for 
very long. Or, alternatively, doing the 
dirty work could be made a condition 
for access to scarce luxuries. 

While certain improvements in 
work C2in be made under capitalism, 
ultimately they are designed to im- 
prove productivity. Amenities such as 
ergonomically designed work stations 
and pleasantly lit factories do not 
change the fact that most people work 
long hours in total alienation from 
their labor £ind its products. To talk 
about truly pleasurable work, it is also 
necessary to talk about another kind 
of world where the profit motive has 
been summarily banished. Questions 
about other ways to organize work 
and society, and how to bring about 
this revolutionary change are not fully 
addressed in Why Work?, but this is 
not so much the book's failing as an 
indication of the depth and difficulty 
of the subject. 

"Leisure in America" by August 
Heckscher and "The Other Economy 
As A Social System" by Denis Pym 
were the most interesting articles on 
alternatives and futures. Also in- 
cluded were Gaston Leval's article on 
collectives during the Spanish revo- 
lution which was rather dry and 
limited in focus; and £in article on 



Processed World 

Israel's kibbutz movement entitled 
"Reflections on Utopia" which was 
shockingly silent on problems within 
kibbutzes and their relationship to the 
far from Utopian Israeli nation. Inter- 
estingly, both Heckscher and Pym do 
not posit sudden revolutionary change 
as leading to new ways of organizing 
work and leisure (as was the case with 
Spain, and to a much lesser extent 
with the Israeli kibbutzes) but rather 
point to alternatives that grow out of 
technological development and the 
displacement of the traditional blue 
collar sector. 

Denis Pym uses the term "Other 
Economy" — without fully defining it 
— to refer to the economic arreinge- 
ment many Brits have developed in 
light of their country's crumbling 
economy and perpetual high unem- 
ployment. Especially in working class 
neighborhoods, some people have 
dropped out of the formal economy 
altogether. Using their skills to repair 
and build, and their neighborhood 
contacts to find work, they are cre- 
ating a counterpart to the highly 
mechanized and automated formal 
economy. According to Pym, the 
"Other Economy," which operates 
through barter and reciprocity, breaks 
down the now common giver/receiver 
dichotomy (e.g. doctor/patient, ex- 

Pym's idea of who can be included 
in the Other Economy seems some- 
what limited. Pym goes into a long 
tribute to the "local 'hero' " of the 
Other Economy which presupposes 
that the "hero" — a fixer with abun- 
dant social contacts who "prefers to 
define space and time his way" — is a 
man. As the editors point out, the 
description is highly sexist. 

Pym rightfully criticizes "the elec- 
tronic dream," since the computer 
industry with its current priorities on 
defense and personnel/personal con- 
trol has ' 'little relevance for living and 
community beyond the maintenance 

of employment and its institutions." 
Yet his Other Economy has little to 
offer service workers who cemnot fit 
the mold of the local hero. Pym calls 
for the "payment of a minimum wage 
to every adult citizen" so they could 
discover "those substantial work op- 
portunities that already exist in the 
Other Economy." The social wage 
already exists in Britain. It's called 
the dole and it comes with hassles and 
humiliations of its own. Pym pin- 
points a new and important develop- 
ment — the growing impetus for 
people to live on the margins of the 
cash economy — yet by supposing 
that the institutions of this society will 
sanction the Other Economy through 
the payment of a hassle-free mini- 
mum wage, or even that this would be 
desirable, he detracts from his argu- 
ment. Likewise, in positing the co- 
existence of small-scale and highly- 
industrialized economies, he ignores 
the necessary antagonisms between 
them and the need to abolish in- 
stitutions like governments and cor- 
porations and to change the thinking 
which created them. 

"Few people think that 'to be free 
is to be [at] leisure'," as August 
Heckscher expl2iins in "Leisure in 
America." Indeed, much free time is 
really anything but free if one in- 
cludes time spent commuting, duti- 
fully fixing meals, watching TV, and 
so forth. Yet in leisure, as in some of 
the work described in Pym's Other 
Economy', is the possibility of plea- 
sure in freely chosen activity. 
Through taking control of our leisure 
and shaping our activities and com- 
mitments to suit our pleasures, as 
well as by perpetually expanding 
areas of personal autonomy, one 
catches glimpses of a world free from 
the coercion to work and open to many 

— by Helen Highwater 

yxxxxx^'xxxxxxxxxxxxAXXAA/xxy'y'^ rxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxyXi/xyvxyxy 

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